12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) rook the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– I ask the right honorable the Prime Minister if there is any truth in a statement which has appeared in the press to the effect that as the sub mission of the Government’s referendum proposals has been postponed, the proposals are to be abandoned ?
– There is no truth whatever in the statement. There has been no suggestion that the Government’s referendum proposals should be abandoned.
– I ask the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) if, in the event of a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool being established, the exchange, which at present benefits Australia, in connexion with sales overseas, will be credited to the pool? At present the exchange benefits Australia to the extent of £6 2s. 6d. per cent., which would be equal to 3¼d. a bushel.
-I ask, Mr. Speaker, if the honorable member is in order in asking a question on the details of a measure now before the House?
– The honorable member is out of order in asking a question in respect of a measure set down on the notice-paper for discussion.
– The Myrtle Bank district is approximately about twenty miles distant from Launceston, and a motor service passes through it twice daily. Yet it has a mail delivery only three times a week. Will the Postmaster-General, therefore, take the stepsnecessary to establish a daily mail by inviting tenders for such a service?
– I shall take the matter into consideration.
– In connexion with the forced resignation of certain ratings from the Royal Australian Navy, I ask the Minister for Defence if preference to returned sailors is being observed? I have receiveda letter signed by certain ratings, setting out that certain submarine ratings who have seen service have been dismissed, while others who have had no active service have been retained. Will the Minister investigate the matter, to see that the policy of preference to returned sailors is being observed ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and supply the honorable member with an answer at the earliest possible date.
– I have received from the Secretary of the Traders Association at Parkes, a communication intimating that since the duty on matches has been raised, the wholesale price of wax matches has been increased12½ per cent. by the manufacturers. I ask the Prime Minister if that is a fact, and if so, will he arrange for an investigation of the circumstances?
– The honorable member showed mo the letter he referred to, and I have also received a copy of a circular letter on the subject, from the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner). In regard to these, I despatched a telegram to Bryant & May in Melbourne, to which I have received the following reply, signed by Mr. Joshua, the Chairman of Directors: -
Our definite promise no matter what duties imposed our price safety matches would not be raised has been faithfully kept and will be kept. This applies all other lines except one. We have not at any time made any promise regards plaid vestas price of which for many years was at least five shillings four pence. Price war with other local makers reduced same price below cost, but recently rational arrangements permits us restore price. Alternative was ceasing manufacture this line with disastrous effects those employed here and indirectly in spearine glue board and paper factories. Now invite you verify our statement that our plaid vestas have been sold for past twelve years well below cost. That could not continue. This line is not affected by new tariff as imports ceased many years ago. No change in prices of wood safeties or any other of our lines.
I have asked the Customs Department to go into the facts of the case.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a leading article with reference to migration in the Labour Daily of to-day, which concludes with the following expression ofopinion : - The dictation test is a contemptible fraud always, but becomes something worse when it is fraudulently applied to send away from Australia a reputable citizen of fourteen years standing “. Is the Prime Minister of the opinion that the dictation test is “ a contemptible fraud always “, and if not, will he have this case fully investigated, so that the public may be acquainted with the facts?
– I have not seen the article referred to by the honorable member, and cannot express an opinion upon the expression quoted without knowing the context; but I do not think that it is advisable to raise, in this Parliament, a question about the application of the education test. We have adopted the White Australia policy, and the education test is applied in furtherance of it.
– Will the Prime Minister request the Auditor-General, over whom Parliament has no control, to furnish, honorable members, as early as possible, with a copy of his report for the year 1928-29 ?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question of calling a conference representative of employers, employees and governments to deal with unemployment was discussed at the last Premiers’ Conference. The opinion expressed was that for practical reasons the calling of such conferences should be left to each State Government.
Compensation to Retrenched Officers
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When is it anticipated that the construction of the automatic telephone exchange at Hurstville will be undertaken?
– A site has been obtained and preliminary steps have been taken in connexion with the erection of the building. Tenders are also under consideration for the apparatus. The date of commencing construction cannot be stated at present.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - egg Yolk, Dry.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Purchase of Miss Johnson’s Plane
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he take steps to acquire the aeroplane Jason, in which Miss Amy Johnson achieved the epic flight from England to Australia, and preserve it as an object of historical value?
– According to newspaper reports, the Daily Mail has already secured the machine, and intends to return it to England for Miss Johnson to fly round that country.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
For the convenience of the number of tourists who visit Canberra, will he direct that adequate road signs be erected on all crossroads and intersecting roads in Canberra?
– The matter is now receiving consideration.
– On the 23rd May the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Has the Minister for Markets and Transport considered the advisability of entering into arrangements with the New South Wales Commissioner of Railways for the running and control of the railway from Queanbeyan to Canberra, with a view to lessening the cost of living and of construction at Canberra?
I have now looked into the question raised by the honorable member, and find that since the Commonwealth Railways have been operating the Queanbeyan to Canberra line a substantial decrease has been effected in working expenses. The extra cost of commodities due to local rates as compared with through rates is extremely low, averaging less than l-100th penny per lb. for groceries, &c, and for building material1s.10d. per ton.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill brought up by Mr. Brennan, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1920.
Bill brought up by Mr. Blakeley, and read a first time.
Old-Age Pensions - Defence Department Retrenchment - Letter Deliveries - Navy Administration - Temporary Postal Employees - Paterson Butter Scheme - Egg Industry - Fertilizers - Rural Finance - Land Reserved for Defence Purposes - Submarines - GovernorGeneral’s Establishments - Effect of Tariff - Gold Bounty- Unemployment Relief - Postal Administration.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.-I bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) a matter of great importance in connexion with the granting of old-age pensions. I have nothing but praise for the manner in which the departmental officers discharge their duties under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, but there are anomalies in some of the regulations. The case to which I shall direct attention is not. isolated. I know of several similar instances, and I am sure that other honorable members have had like cases brought under their notice. A letter which I have received from a widow, who has been unable to obtain the full pension, reads -
I am 77 years old, and when I applied for an old-age pension, I was given 10s. a week. I sent my bank book to the Pensions Department to show that I did not throw away or waste my money.
Why am I, after all these years of hardship and worry, not getting the same treatment as is meted out to others? Is it not for such as I, that the old-age pension is intended, so that we shall not be dependent on the members of our family, who in most cases are not in a position to bear it.
It appears that this lady, on inheriting the estate of her husband twelve or fifteen years ago, gave £100 to her youngest son, who was a cripple. Because of this the departmental officers consider that they cannot, under the regulations, recommend the granting of a full pension to her. I desire to emphasize the injustice of holding up the gift mentioned against the pension for all time. In this case the woman is in very poor circumstances, and I submit that the gift to her crippled son should have a disappearing value over the years that have passed, so that the full amount of pension may be paid to her. While I do not for a moment suggest that people should be allowed to make large grants of money to their relatives out of legacies in order that they may obtain the pension, it seems to me that if the making of one gift of a comparatively small amount, under the circumstances I have described, is sufficient to debar a person from ever receiving the full pension, the regulations require amending. If the act prevents the granting of a full pension in such circumstances, I hope that the Government will introduce an amendment of it. I trust that the Treasurer will give his personal attention to this and similar cases, with the object of removing what is undoubtedly a hardship. I have brought this case under the honorable gentleman’s notice previously, and also under the notice of the departmental officers; but I feel that it merits mention in this House so that early action may be taken to correct a great injustice.
.- When the announcement was made towards the end of last year that the system of compulsory military training was to be abolished and a system of voluntary training substituted for it, Instated in the press that the alteration must cause serious retrenchment in the Defence Department. Subsequently, a statement was made on behalf of the Government that there would not be any dismissals from the department. But in the last few weeks, press paragraphs have reported that the Government intends to retrench certain members of the permanent forces, particularly naval and military men. The Minister for Defence has discussed the application of the rationing system, to the department, and has said that it may be applied to permanent members of the naval and military force, but not to civilian employees. It is suggested that the retrenchment may have the effect of reducing the present remuneration of the officers concerned by one-sixth. I point out to the Minister that these officers are in a different position from the officers of other branches of the service, in that their work is highly specialized. Many of them are admirably qualified to perform the duties which they discharge in the department, but they would be quite unqualified to follow ordinary callings outside. It is important, if we are to maintain any kind of a defence force, that its members should have in special degree security of tenure. When retrenchment is applied to other branches of the Government service the officers who lose their positions have a reasonable chance of finding suitable employment outside; but the officers of the naval and military administrative and instructional staffs are not so situated. If there is to be retrenchment - and that is a matter for the Government to decide - the officers to whom I have referred should be given special consideration. In view of the uncertainty that prevails in the Defence Department in regard to this matter, I urge the Minister to make an early announcement of the decision of the Government. If the rationing system is to be applied in the department, it should be applied to the civilian staff as well as other staffs, and it should also be applied in other departments. It has been suggested that there may be legal” obstacles in the way of applying the system generally, but if the Government desires to apply it, the obstacles could bc removed. I ask the Government to extend to the naval and military officers the utmost consideration, in view of their special circumstances, and to make an announcement without delay.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I have given a great deal of anxious thought to the proposed reduction of staff in the Defence Department. I realize that it will be a serious thing to place even one ordinary public servant upon the labour market at this time, when unemployment is so prevalent. It is only because of the financial position of the country that the Government has felt obliged to retrench in the Defence Department, which, it must be admitted, offers some scope for such action. I admit that the retrenchment of warrant officers and men in similar positions is attended with precisely the difficulties mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. These men have given their best service to the country, and because of the nature of the duties on which they have been engaged, will probably have more difficulty in securing employment outside the Public Service than, say, ordinary clerical officers. Therefore, I have proposed to the departmental heads that an endeavour should be made to enable the men to take time off occasionally until the labour market has become brighter. But opposition to this suggestion for the rationing of work has come from the men themselves. It has been said that the difference between the Indians and the American soldier when they were fighting was that the Indian knew that some one was to be killed, and always felt that he would be the victim, while the American thought that it would be some one else. Those who oppose the rationing system think, like the American soldier, that, though some one is to be dismissed, he will not be the one. They are not prepared to share their last biscuit with their fellows. It is impossible to say what decision will be reached by the committee that I have appointed to investigate this matter. A scheme of rationing has been examined, and certain figures have been supplied to me. An attempt is also being made to determine how many men will have to be retrenched if the objection to rationing is unanimous. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I am considering these questions sympathetically; but eventually they must be determined in accordance with the requirements of the financial position.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) a request by a number of my constituents for a letter delivery. Some time ago I directed the attention of a previous PostmasterGeneral to a similar request, which was granted, and I fail to see why the present objection of the department is maintained. The metropolitan area of Adelaide is fairly compact, and no resident should be deprived of ordinary postal conveniences. Although the greater portion of my electorate is thickly populated and rapidly developing, a certain number of the people find i,t necessary to live on the outskirts of the settled area in order to obtain houses of their own and to escape the very high rents prevailing. Those on whose behalf I am now speaking reside within the district council area of Prospect, and not more than three miles ‘ from the heart of the city. The post office chimes are within earshot, but the department has refused to grant them a letter delivery. They reside in McInnes-avenue Prospect Hill, and their request has been refused on the ground that the street is inaccessible, or is not as easy for the postman to traverse as other portions of the district. When a like reason was advanced for refusing a similar request I took a tram to the district, walked a quarter of a mile, and discussed the matter with the residents, who were compelled to go three-quarters of a mile for their letters; but I did not soil my booti, although the previous night had been wet. As the result of my representations to the department on that occasion, the request was granted. When the residents of Mclnnes-avenue were told that their request could not be acceded to, I asked them not to accept the decision as final until I had looked into the matter. I met the postman, and discovered that, if he were required to deliver letters to these householders, he would not have to walk an extra 100 yards. I have received a communication from Mr. Ramsay. Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs, stating that a letter delivery to that portion of Prospect cannot be given until the roads in the locality have been made. That seems to be an absurd decision. In a quarter of an hour I could walk over the whole area where the delivery is required, and I could do it on the wettest day without getting my boots muddy, because it is high land. We do not tell the navvy that he must not dig in a wet ditch. The postman rides a bicycle most of the way on his round, and I pointed out to the postal authorities in Adelaide that the district is one of the driest in the metropolitan area. The decision th.it has been reached is contrary to common sense. We cannot tell the taxpayers in a residential area that they must walk for their mails. If that is suggested I wish to know how much is paid by way of subsidy for the carriage of mails by air to places to which mails are already sent in the ordinary way. About a couple of years_ago it was decided, for financial- reasons,”that every householder should place a letter-box at his front gate. The postage rate on letters had been reduced from 2d. to Hd. The weight allowed was increased from $ oz. to 1 oz., but that did not benefit the working man. In the case to which I am referring, weeks would probably elapse during which the postman would not be required to take any letters to that portion of McInnes-avenue. The authorities are not asked in this case to deliver letters in the wilds of Australia, but only in the metropolitan area of Adelaide; therefore this is not an outrageous request. Mr. Ramsay said that if it were granted, it would involve reorganizing the deliveries and, perhaps, putting on an extra man. I maintain that that is the work for which the department was established. “We are losing thousands of pounds in air mail subsidies, while people living within earshot of a town clock are deprived of a letter delivery becausethe tracks are muddy.
– I take this opportunity to urge that whatever retrenchments may be necessary in the Defence Department, they should be carried out in accordance with the policy of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and that preference should be given to Australians. At the present time two committees are at work in connexion with this department, one dealing with naval retrenchment and the other with reorganization so far as the military forces are concerned. I understand that the services of a number of military officers are to be dispensed with. There is a feeling on the part of highly-paid officials that further extensions of term should be given to military officers who have been appointed for a period of three or four years to take charge of battalions, brigades, &c. I feel that, notwithstanding the necessity to curtail the number of officers, instead of the Minister agreeing to further extensions of commands, no such extensions should be made, but opportunities should be given to many of our brilliant young Australian officers to have experience in the commands of not only battalions but of brigades also. I trust that the Minister will see that no injustice is done, and that every opportunity is afforded to Australian officers. I contend that in no circumstances should men whose terms of appointment have expired, receive extensions.
The Navy is the one arm of the Defence Force that should receive a thorough overhaul. The naval gentlemen have too long had an “ open go,” with the result that the people are being called upon to pay tens of thousands of pounds per annum needlessly. I understand that of the three members of the Economy Committee, all of whom, are Englishmen, two are Royal Navy pensioners. These three naval gentlemen from overseas, pen or sword in hand, are now deciding to what extent young Australian officers are to be ruthlessly sacrificed. I contend that this country, this party, and. this Parliament have a right to expect Australian officers, who have been trained at the expense of the people, to be given an opportunity to hold the highest position of command in the Navy, whether in the engineering or any other branch. Why should we allow Royal Navy pensioners and others from overseas to occupy these positions to the exclusion of Australians? This matter ought not to be left in the hands of the departmental heads, but should engage the attention of the Minister for Defence and the Government of the day. The present committee consisting of officers from overseas will effect no economies that are worth while, and any economies that are effected will be at the. expense of the bottom dog. ‘ The members of this committee have had a free hand for many years. The Bruce-Page Government took the advice, and acted upon the recommendations of, these gentlemen; but the times have changed, and the party that was responsible for the establishment of the Australian Navy is again in power, and I am looking forward to the immediate application of a 100 per cent. Australian policy in respect of the control and administration of the navy. These gentlemen have acquired extravagant habits. We could not expect them to do otherwise, seeing that they have been permitted during the expensive regime of the. Bruce-Page Government to expend freely -the money of the Australian taxpayers. On several occasions 1 have drawn attention to directions in which I considered economies could be effected. Officers attached to shore’ establishments arn given six weeks leave each year. The curtailment of that leave could readily engage thu attention of the Naval Board and of the Government, particularly nt a time like this, when thousands of men ure walking the streets anxiously, but unsuccessfully, seeking employment. They are told that no jobs can be found for them because money is not available. In view of that, position, how can we justify the extravagance and waste that is taking place in the navy or in any other Commonwealth activity?
– Those men do not work under any award.
– That is so. They enjoy good salaries and conditions, yet they arc unprepared, during this time of financial stringency, to have the pruning knife applied to themselves. There is no justification for the granting of ais weeks leave each year to officers attached to our naval establishments. Another item that has appeared on our Estimates from time to time is a sum for the travelling expenses of English johnnies attached to our navy who do practically nothing but travel between Great Britain and Australia. During the last five years £140,000 has been paid for the fares of officers and men to and from Great Britain. There is no justification for that expenditure. During the current year something like £19,000 has been provided for the payment of passaged of officers and men. The exchange of officers, and the opportunities that are given them to wangle trips overseas must cease altogether. We should not tolerate any longer the arrangement under which 30 or more officers are attached “to the Royal Australian Navy, who are also drawing or entitled to draw, pensions from the Royal Navy. Something like six weeks ago I asked the Minister for Defence what was the amount of pensions drawn by these Royal Navy officers who are now attached to the Royal Australian Navy ; but up to date I have not been able to obtain that information. There is no excuse for the delay in answering my question, particularly as it relates to a matter of public interest. It is impossible for us to tolerate the treatment which we are experiencing at the hands of the naval and military chiefs. For instance, the head of the engineering branch, Rear-Admiral Sydenham, is receiving a princely salary from the Commonwealth Government. He is entitled to a Royal Navy pension of £800 pur annum, and, although brought to this country by the Bruce-Page Government for a term of three years, he has held his position for five years. It is through his agency that many Australian engineering officers are to receive their walking-tickets in a week or two. That gentleman should be relieved of his duties, because there is no necessity’ for us to retain the services of so highly-paid an engineer, particularly when he happens to be the person who adopted a nonAustralian attitude by advising the BrucePage Government to have our two cruisers constructed overseas. It is interesting to recall that it was this gentleman whose estimates in connexion with cruiser construction were severely criticized by Sir John Monash. The same person was responsible for recommending the purchase of two submarines. That has been a costly experiment for Australia. There arc many other men holding comfortable positions in the Royal Australian Navy, whose conditions are not likely to be altered unless tip Commonwealth Government takes firm action in respect of economy. We have in London at the present time a Commonwealth naval representative and also a technical assistant. The naval representative receives a salary of about £1,400 per annum, yet his position and that of the technical assistant are entirely unnecessary. There would be Borne justification for the retention of these posi-tions in Loudon if any Commonwealth construction were proceeding in Great Britain, but at present there ia none, and not likely to bc any. If n7 alterations or additions were required, to the existing fleet of the Royal Australian Navy, that could be made, known per medium of the list of alteration *need additions which is issued by the R»y«
Navy and circulated throughout the Empire. There is no need for us to retain those costly positions in London. We have alsoa Director of Naval Intelligence, and Intelligence Officers receiving £1,000 and more per annum. Goodness knows what their duties are.
– They play golf.
Mr.C.RILEY. - That is no justification for the extravagant expenditure of public money. Recreation for highlypaid officers should not be provided at the public expense. There arc in certain positions in the various States many understudies whose pervices might well be dispensed with.T here is the captain superintendent at G arden Island. That position could be dispensed with. That officer has under him engineering officers who have been specially selected because of their engineering knowledge and skill. He not only receives a salary of £1,400, but is given furnished quarters in a beautiful home with a wonderful water frontage. The property is worth at least £15,000. Seeing that a successor to Lord Stonehaven is likely to be appointed shortly, I suggest that we might well utilize this elaborate home on the south side of the Harbour, which is at present occupied by the captain superintendent, as the residence of the Governor-General. Such a suggestion is in keeping with the action of the Prime Minister in declining to use the Prime Minister’s lodge, and the Government’s policy of economy. That would obviate a great deal of expense, such as the management and upkeep of Admiralty House, and the various launches that are used for the conveyance of the Governor-General.We have, today, more rear admirals connected with the fleet, which now consists of four vessels in commission, than we had when the full strength of the navy was 30 vessels. To-day we have the cruisers Australia and Canberra, the seaplane carrier Albatross, and the torpedo destroyer Anzac. It is time that the Government freely used the pruning knife and in the right quarter.
– What should be done with the dismissed officers?
– They should go back to the old country and draw their pensions. They should not remain a drag on the people of Australia, and an obstacle in the way of the promotion of Australian officers who have earned the right to be employed in the service of the Royal Australian Navy.
– Does the honorable member say that all Australian officers should be retained?
– Let me deliver my speech in my own way. The Naval Board could be remodelled. The admiral of the fleet should be the first naval member of the board. We are not justified in having an English admiral in Australia in charge of only four vessels, and another admiral or rear admiral, acting as first naval member. It is only reasonable that the admiral of the fleet should be the first member of the Naval Board.
– It is no wonder that we have no money.
– The Bruce-Page Government took no action to prevent the naval authorities from squandering the taxpayers’ money, and accepted willynilly the advice of the Naval Board.
– The Scullin Government has had a fair opportunity to do something in that direction.
– Before long this Government will economize in many directions, and I trust that in doing that it will have the support of honorable members opposite. We should not allow this country to drift financially by placing the management or control of our Navy in the hands of naval officers from overseas. We should apply to the Navy a purely Australian policy. Not one Australian officer should be sacrificed and thrown on the labour market while we have men in the Navy drawing pensions, and, at the same time, holding cushy jobs. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Green) to take immediate action to prevent Australian officers from being retrenched. I know that 40 officers of the Royal Australian Navy are to leave at the end of June, although Royal Navy officers are still clinging to their jobs.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the interchange of Australian and British officers is of advantage to Australia?
– Not at the present time. Rear Admiral Hyde is in London to-day, but I think that his time would be better spent in Australia in charge of the Australian Fleet.
– Is he not gaining experience abroad?
– No. He has all the experience that he requires.
– Does not the honorable member approve of officers gaining experience ?
– The interjection is almost too stupid for me to comment upon. We give our officers every opportunity to gain experience. What I am complaining about is that the experience of our Royal Australian Navy officers, -who have been in the Navy since its inception, and were on active service overseas, has been unacknowledged and un availed of by English officers whose own qualifications and experience are, to some extent, questionable. I am anxious to conserve to Australia the experience of our Australian officers. What justification is there for the maintenance of the Naval College and the expenditure of thousands of pounds on each student, if, after his training and many years’ experience, he is to be set aside in favour of officers from overseas? I hope that the Ministry will consider this matter seriously, before finally deciding upon its policy of retrenchment in the naval and military establishments. In some cases, engineering and other officers, who “received their training and experience at no expense to the Commonwealth, are to be discarded after twenty years’ service in the Royal Australian Navy, while Royal Navy officers have been retained. The position should not be tolerated, and I hope that the Government will take immediate steps to prevent injustice being done.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and also the House, a matter that has given me much worry, not for months, but for years; I refer to the employment of temporary hands in the. postal service. I know that the whole question is surrounded with many difficulties and. that, offhand, the Postmaster-General may not be able to see any light in the darkness. But it is about time the Government took into serious consideration the matter of the dismissal, sometimes in wholesale fashion, of men who have had long service in public departments. Many of them are returned soldiers. Their only fault is that they have always been on the temporary list. In any circumstances dismissal from employment is cruel, except when it is due to a person’s misconduct, whether a man be permanent or a temporary employee. I am afraid that there is a sort of mental atmosphere in government departments which is not altogether sympathetic with men who are labelled temporary employees. I have had a lot of dealings with public officials, members of the Public Service Board, and others over this matter of temporary employees. I cannot actually describe their attitude as callous, but they take the view that nothing can be done for a temporary employee because he knew the disabilities of his position when he accepted temporary employment. They seem to think that the temporary hand has no ground for complaint if he is dismissed. I interviewed the Postmaster-General recently - and I had interviewed his predessor about similar eases - about the cases of two telegraphists employed in a New England town. Both were dismissed recently on very short notice. One wrote to me telling me that he had been employed as a temporary telegraphist for a number of years, that he had thereby obtained considerable experience, and was, in fact, fully qualified on the technical side. As a matter of fact, he was in charge of one of the largest provincial offices at night for several weeks at a stretch, during which time, owing to its being a repeating station, several repeating sets were in use between Sydney, Brisbane, Grafton, Lismore and Murwillumbah and at times between Melbourne and other stations. These sets require constant attention from an officer with technical knowledge and experience. This man in his letter to me says -
I believe that I am the only temporary employee who has filled such a position.
This highly-skilled telegraphist has been deprived of his position at almost a moment’s notice. He is a man with a family to keep, and there is no position open for him. He worked his way up from the ranks until he became a skilled telegraphist, but now he has been replaced by an inexperienced youth who has gained a position on the permanent staff as a result of passing an examination, and for whom a position has had to be found. The other telegraphist, who was dismissed at the same time, is not quite so skilled, but he was also a senior and a competent telegraphist. Cases have come under my notice of dismissals from other post offices in my electorate, and many other honorable members have had the same experience in their electorates.
Bequests have come to me from temporary telephone and telegraph linemen. There are a great many of these in country districts who, from time to time, receive notice that they are to be paid off, although some of them have been in the service as temporary hands for quite a long time. I was astounded recently when a man came to see me who had been employed as a temporary linesman for sixteen .years. He was in the postal service before the war, but had the misfortune, while in the service of the department, to lose an eye. I do not know what was the cause of his accident, but lie received uo compensation. As much as £600 compensation has been paid for a serious injury to a hand which has incapacitated a man. In one case £600 was paid to an employee of a Commonwealth department who was incapacitated through injuries to his back. The man who came to me was apparently injured before this liberal scale of compensation was introduced. Although he had lost an eye he went to the war, and rendered good service. On his return he filled various positions in the Postal Department in different parts of the Commonwealth, and was actually in charge of one district ; but he has recently been notified that his services were likely to be dispensed with at any moment, because he is a temporary hand. It seems almost like comic opera to class a man as temporary who has been in the service for sixteen years. This officer has a large family, and he is quite a good type of citizen. It is amazing that a system can grow up in a department by which, as it were, a Sword of Damocles is hung over the heads of men who have spent practically the best part of their lives in its service. I cannot understand why there are not men in the Postal Department capable of devising a scheme to get over this difficulty of temporary employment. So far, apparently, the problem has not been seriously tackled. The present PostmasterGeneral’s regime would be distinguished from those of his predecessors if he could solve it, if a proper scheme were devised for dealing with the large number of temporary men in the service of the department who, really, because of their length of service, cannot but be classed as permanent, and because of the vast experience they have gained must be cf economic value to the department. It is absurd, and bad business from an economic point of view, for a man who has rendered valuable public service for sixteen years to be thrown out of his position in order that an inexperienced junior may take his place. The problem should be tackled seriously. At the present time, owing to the need for the department to retrench, a great many of these so-called temporary hands are receiving notice. It is a painful experience to a federal member to be interviewed by those who have received notice of dismissal and to have to listen to their tales of woe. All he can do is to pull the wool over their eyes by saying that he will do all he can - that he will see the Postmaster-General, and, if necessary, the Public Service Board - while all the time he knows very well that sentence has been delivered, and they must go. Finally, after a few weeks, in which it is a case of “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” he has to send along a formal communication that nothing can be done, and that is the end of the whole section. These are the most painful cases with which federal members have to deal, and I am getting pretty tired of them. I think it is time some protest was made in the House. Of course, it is a difficult matter for the Postmaster-General to know what to do. As a matter of fact, he should not have to solve the problem. His gigantic department ought to be able, to concentrate sufficiently upon it to be able to submit to him some scheme for a gradual retirement or a gradual absorption of these people. Whether they are temporary or “not, they are at least entitled to humane treatment. They certainly entered the Service as temporary employees and may have no legal claim to be retained, but as the years have gone by, and they have acquired more and more experience, they have begun to think that they have almost a prescriptive right to their jobs. We can easily understand 11 man who has been sixteen years in a position becoming accustomed to the idea that he is a fixture. He cannot visualize a situation arising one day in which he will be told bluntly that he has come to the end of his tether, and must go. This is not a good advertisement for the Commonwealth. These men have their friends. Mostly they live in country towns where they have probably taken a considerable part in public affairs. Their grievances become known among their fellows, and their dismissals are regarded as glaring acts of injustice. The department is looked upon as a tyrannical machine, without a soul, and without consideration for women and children, let alone grown-up men. That sort of thing is largely responsible for the bad odour in which the Postal Department is held. In that respect there has been an improvement lately, but there is still a widespread feeling of indignation among the public towards this great Commonwealth department, and it is largely engendered by the grievances that members of the postal staff publicly ventilate from time to time. The treatment meted out to temporary men, and even to messenger boys who are in the same plight, is largely responsible for the bad opinion which the public has of postal administration generally. I do not ask the Postmaster-General to say offhand what could be done in the matter, because it requires a great deal of thought, but in common justice, and as a matter of ordinary humanity, he should discuss with Cabinet the problem of what to do with the temporary employees in his department who are being pushed out by the young fellows who have passed an examination which the temporary men Iia ve not a chance of passing. If the Postmaster-General will give his earnest consideration to the matter, I am sure lie will get support from all sides of the House. I hope that he may devise some means by which better treatment can be meted out to the large number of temporary employees of all grades in the Postal Department. It may take him some time to work it out, but he will bc doing a great benefit to the community if in the meantime he withholds the order of the sack from the senior men with any amount of experience and heavy family responsibilities, pending the adoption of some scheme of gradual dismissal or gradual absorption. It might involve extra cost, but the substantial- justice it would do to good and faithful servants of his department would tell not only in favour of the Minister, but also iD favour of the Government.
.- The solution of the troubles mentioned by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is not so easy as he suggested. The Postmaster-General would like to do many things, but the Government has not been in office very long, and, unfortunately, has succeeded to the empty coffers left by its predecessor. I hope, however, that soon the finances of the Commonwealth will be in a more healthy condition, so that the Government may be in a better position to render good service to all sections of the community.
For a considerable time I have been waiting for an opportunity to draw atten-to the manner in which the Paterson butter scheme is operating. It is not working out in practice as the originators intended. It is not a federal scheme, and it has no legal authority. At the outset, the producers were to pay a levy of ltd. per lb. on all butter manufactured from cream, whether sold locally or exported. The amount has since been increased to If d., which is in addition to all other charges. It is a direct levy on the producers, and is paid into a pool to which the merchants and others are parties. The exporters then make a deduction from the pool in respect of all butter exported. At first the deduction was 3d. per lb. ; subsequently, it was raised to 4d., and to-day it is 4d. The Australian consumption of butter is three times greater than the export, otherwise it would be impossible for the merchants to draw a bonus of 4£d. per lb. on butter sent abroad, when only l$d. per lb. is paid into the pool. The scheme is supposed to have been evolved for the protection of the producers. In my opinion, they are paying a costly price for their protection.
– Victorian butter producers are well satisfied with the scheme.
– I am expressing the South Australian view. The scheme plays into the hands of the merchants, and is continually makins their financial position more secure. Dairy production offers hig scope for development, and if the industry is properly handled, it can become a very important factor in the economic life of the community. It can only be developed successfully, however, on co-operative lines. Under existing conditions, the producer has no encouragement to increase his herd, and the consumer is fleeced right and left without any advantage to the producer or the public revenue. All the monetary benefits are reaped by the merchants. The Paterson butter scheme is the worst joke ever played on any country; it is making Australia a laughing stock, and is causing tariff reprisals and accusations of dumping. I cannot believe that Federal and State members of Parliament understand what the scheme means, or they would terminate it without delay. Without parliamentary sanction, the merchants have the audacity to impose a direct tax of 4½d. per lb. on one of the necessaries of life. By this means, the consumers contribute millions of pounds per annum as a food tax, not one penny of which is paid directly into State or Federal revenue. Surely this is unconstitutional.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Boothby appears to be reading his speech; is that in order?
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Crouch). - An honorable member is not allowed to read his speech, but it is permissible for him to refresh his memory with the aid of copious notes.
– Although its clever originators managed to make some of the producers think that the scheme was for their benefit, I am sure it is not. Must the consumers submit to such an outrage without having an opportunity to protest? Under this stupid scheme, the producers have to pay a levy of 1 3/4d. per lb. in respect of butter manufactured from their cream, and the money is “aid. into a fund by the manufacturers, to be withdrawn at the rate of 4$d. per lb. by the exporters. Meanwhile all the people of Australia, except those of Western Australia, which wisely refrained from entering the pool and thereby has benefited considerably, are forced to pay at least 4£d. per lb. above world’s parity for all the butter that they consume. Consider what is happening in South Australia. The price paid by the local consumer is at least 8d. per lb. above the price of best Australian butter in London. To-day the London price is 126s. per cwt., or ls. l£d. per lb., and the wholesale price in South Australia is ls. lOd. per lb. As South Australia has to import 50 per cent, of its requirements, half the producers have no cream when the price is high, and thus the scheme is useless to them. By the Paterson scheme the prices of butter are supposed to be stabilized.
– Nothing of the sort.
– The people of Australia would not object to reasonable stabilization provided the producers derived the benefit. But the unsoundness of this scheme is exposed when we realize that the producers pay lid. per lb., or £16 6s. 8d. per ton to stabilize the industry, whilst the dried fruits industry, by means of a properly appointed board, has stabilized prices in Australia for one-twentieth of a penny per lb. or 9s. 4d. per ton.
– The butter producers get back all the money they contribute. The honorable member does not understand the scheme.
– I am drawing attention to some of the effects of the scheme, because the people of Australia do not understand it, and I believe that it requires a thorough investigation. In my opinion it is a farce, and should be discontinued. The export figures show that production in South Australia has decreased by 70 per cent, since the Paterson scheme started. During the last three years the average annual export has been only 250 tons as against more than 1,000 tons prior to the stabilization scheme being introduced, and the decline is not wholly due to bad seasons.
– lt is entirely due to dry seasons.
– The honorable member is wrong. The butter industry means too much to Australia to be trifled with, and I strongly advise all who are in power to co-operate in conserving and developing it. I repeat that the stabilization scheme is not operating as its originators intended. How is it possible to compete when the costs of manufacture are as follows : -
The scheme has not operated in the interests either of the producers or the consumers, and the sooner the subject is investigated the better for all concerned. A more equitable scheme is absolutely necessary-
– There could not be a more equitable scheme.
– The banding together of farmers a’nd producers on co-operative lines would bring about a much more equitable scheme.
– That is what is now being done.
– The Paterson scheme is not truly co-operative. We want to do away with the middle-man, the butter merchants, the experts, and so on, and let the farmers handle the matter themselves. That would give grower and consumer alike a square deal, and a better price would be obtained for the product. I could elaborate on the subject of cooperative systems at considerable length, as I had a good deal of experience of the co-operative movement both in Australia and abroad. If wisely handled a truly co-operative system would solve many of our existing difficulties. It is for that reason that I appeal to our farmers and to the consumers to engage in the cooperative movement. While in London I had an opportunity to appreciate the benefits accruing from the system both in Great Britain and on the Continent. To indicate the gigantic proportions which it has assumed in the United Kingdom, I mention that one in every four persons there belongs to the movement, and is reaping the benefit. There is a similar state oi affairs in Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and other European countries.
The position of our egg industry is scandalous, and grossly unfair to the country producers. It is only necessary to read market reports to realize that. The time is close at hand when Australia will carry on a big trade in egg pulp with Great Britain and other countries. The possibilities for the expansion of our egg and poultry industries are unlimited. I hope that, organized along co-operative lines, the producers of Australia will be able to obtain a better deal than they have in the past, and that my remarks this afternoon will assist to bring about that beneficial result.
.- It afforded me pleasure to listen to the speech of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price). I am proud to think that at last I have gained one convert from the other side to my opinions; one man in this Parliament who objects to compulsory legislation to deal with matters of this sort, and who urges that, instead of having compulsory wheat pools and Paterson butter schemes, we should have genuine co-operative schemes similar to those operating in Great Britain and Denmark. The honorable member advocates that, instead of leaving the average member of Parliament to control every industry and manage all the business in creation, we should have a real cooperative movement.
I contend that the increased price which is charged for our butter in the southern hemisphere loses us a great deal of trade with New Zealand, and imposes a highly increased charge on the people of South Australia and the other States. But the honorable member must remember that the operation of the coastal clauses of our navigation act increase the cost of the timber so greatly needed by the manufacturers of Adelaide, and our tariff inflates the cost of iron and steel to such an extent that it is almost impossible for that magnificent Adelaide enterprise, Holden’s, to carry on. Conditions have come to such a pass that there is a danger of 4,000 to 5,000 men being thrown out of employment in the South Australian capital, because of our restrictive legislation. Attention to that matter would be more useful than an investigation concerning the additional few pence charged for a pound of butter.
L have before me the report of the Tariff Board on fertilizers. Last week a deputation waited on the Prime Minister, urging that prompt action should be taken to give effect to its recommendations. I draw special attention to the majority report of that board, because I have urged in this chamber, time after time, that its chairman should be free from political or departmental influence.
– The honorable member really needs a free trader for the job.
– I do not care who is appointed to advise Parliament in these matters, provided he is not an officer of the Customs Department. One of the things at present vitally affecting Australia is our adverse trade balance. There is great need to increase the volume of our primary exports. I notice a news item in to-day’s press to the effect that New Zealand now has an excess of something like £6,000,000 of exports over imports. That is due to the development of primary production in that country, and to the recognition by the New Zealand Government that the greatest means of bringing about such a state of affairs was to make available cheap fertilizers, enabling production to be increased. For a long time I have urged that pyrites should be admitted duty free into Western Australia. I again direct attention to the need for a plentiful supply of nitrogenous fertilizers being available to our primary producers. Some people are under the false impression that if nitrogenous fertilizers were freely introduced into Australia they would adversely affect the manufacture of superphosphates in this country. I have here a memorandum from a representative Australian firm manufacturing superphosphates, which is of interest in this connexion. It reads -
Wo are as interested as any other fertilizer company in Australia in the local manufacture of synthetic nitrogen; and we are convinced that the day when the erection of such factories is likely to be a business proposition, can be hastened by a reduction of nitrogenous fertilizers to primary producers, thereby encouraging and increasing demand and, in turn, production. In addition, a reduction in the price of nitrogenous fertilizers will place our primary producers in a much more advantageous position than they are at present, when marketing their produce overseas at world’s parity.
That proves my contention that it would assist our manufacturers of superphosphates if nitrogenous fertilizers were admitted into Australia duty free, as it would increase the demand for their products. Au objection has been raised to the importation of pyrites, duty free, because in New South Wales a mine is being opened at Lake George from which it is hoped to supply the State with all the pyrites needed for the purpose of making sulphuric acid, which is one of the essentials in the manufacture of superphosphate. We in Western Australia are in quite a different position. It will be impossible to transport pyrites to Western Australia from New South Wales - the freight cost would exceed its value - and quite impracticable to send sulphuric acid to the West either by rail or boat. To be produced on an economic basis these acids have to be manufactured where the superphosphates are made. I am quite confident that an undertaking could be obtained from the Rio Tinto Company not to supply pyrites to any State in Australia other than Western Australia. The company is a British one operating in Spain. Victoria is wholly dependent on the United States of America for its brimstone, while we in Western Australia are at present likewise dependent on that country for the brimstone that we need to manufacture sulphuric acid. South Australia and New South Wales are able to obtain zinc slimes locally, consequently their importation of brimstone has been small. I desire to see a breakaway from the American monopoly. I remember that during the war period that country ran the price of brimstone up to £19 a ton. It is now somewhere about £6 a ton. If my suggestion were adopted, and pyrites brought into Western Australia were duty free, that would reduce the price of superphosphates in that State by from 2s. to 3s. a ton. Comparatively, it takes twice the tonnage of pyrites, as against sulphur, to make a given quantity of sulphuric acid, so that a considerably greater tonnage of material would he handled by our railways, wharfs and factories. That, and the additional labour employed would provide additional work. In addition, the importation of pyrites would provide increased shipping at low rates to take our exports back to Europe.
We pay to tha United States of America £240,000 a year for sulphur; that is from Western Australia alone. Our adverse trade balance would be corrected to the extent of £170,000 a year if we imported our requirements from Great Britain, and the advantage to Western Australia would, be considerable. The Tariff Board has recommended that pyrites be admitted duty free to Australia, and I hope that the Government will take action in that direction.
An extraordinary recommendation of the board is that which deals with nitrogenous fertilizers ; it proves that my contention that the chairman of the board should be free of departmental influences is more than justified. The minority report refers to the high cost of sulphate of ammonia in Australia. I may mention that while superphosphate is absolutely essential for the growing of wheat in what may be termed dry areas, an altogether different fertilizer is needed in the very wet areas, particularly in Tasmania, the south-western portion of Western Australia, and many parts of Queensland. The sulphate of ammonia required by farmers is supplied almost wholly by the gas companies and the smelter works, and the current prices are as follow: -
The minority report of the board states that these prices are much too high compared with the, £12 12s. a ton paid by farmers in New Zealand.
The board refers also to the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers. It says that the manufacture of pure nitrogen amounted to 1,627,000 tons in 1927-2S and to 2,267,000 tons in 1929-30, while the estimate for the year 1930-31 is 2,332,000 tons. It points out the extent to which the value of this fertilizer has increased, and goes on to say -
The manufacturers of synthetic nitrogen products have adopted a far-seeing policy in reference to price. They have realized that increased consumption was essential, and that this could only be obtained if the value of the product were fully appreciated, and if a clear gain would follow its use. To ensure those ends well-planned educational campaigns have been organized, and the prices of the products have been lowered in accordance with the saving made possible by mass production methods.
I suppose that it is within the memory of the majority of honorable members that prior to the war German scientists discovered that nitrogen could be extracted from the atmosphere. Soon after the outbreak of the war, when the British Navy blockaded the German coast and made it impossible for that nation to obtain supplies of nitrogen from Chile, Germany erected extensive plants for the extraction of nitrogen from the atmosphere, and used it in the manufacture of high explosives. When the war had terminated, this synthetic nitrogen was used as a fertilizer, and I believe that it was responsible for a remarkable increase in the productive wealth of the country. I am given to understand that Germany laid her cards upon the table, and frankly told the authorities in the United States of America and Great Britain what they had done, requesting that they should trade with her until they themselves could manufacture synthetic nitrogen. I believe that there is now a proposal in Great Britain to manufacture synthetic nitrogen for fertilizing purposes; but I do not know of any British firm that is yet prepared to supply it. We should encourage its importation from whatever country we can procure it until we are satisfied that we can obtain supplies from Great Britain. If its value can be proved, there are great possibilities of having it manufactured in Tasmania, which has hydro-electric facilities.
The report of the Tariff Board contains the following paragraph: -
At the Newcastle works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company the original cokeroasting installation was of the type which did not allow of the recovery of by-products. Recently the company installed the other type at a cost approximating £1,000,000.
The board recommends a substantial duty on sulphate of ammonia and other fertilizers because, when the coke ovens were installed at Newcastle, provision was not made for the recovery of byproducts. It is inconceivable that engineers would build coke ovens for that great works and not realize the possibility of obtaining large profits from by-products such as sulphate of ammonia, benzine and tar. Only recently a request was made for a duty on bitumen, so that a better price could be obtained for the tar that is also a by-product of the coke oven. Should we, as the Tariff Board recommends, give a preference to the byproducts of gas companies or smelter works, instead of considering the interests not only of the primary producers, but also of Australia as a whole? I hope that the Government will realize that every facility should be afforded to the primary producers to obtain fertilizers at a low cost. Other countries allow the free importation of not only the fertilizer itself, but also of the raw material that is used solely in the manufacture of fertilizers. Enormous quantities of pyrites are imported duty free into the United States of America and Canada as a material that is required solely for the manufacture of fertilizers. Australia places the by-products of the factory before the interests of the nation.
I draw particular attention to the paragraph in the report of the Tariff Board which discusses a proposal by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australiaand New Zealand Limited. I do not think that any honorable member will approve of the recommendation that it makes. The report states -
This company proposes to control the distribution of the whole of the Australian output and to import a quantity sufficient to make up the anticipated requirements of each year. The proposal is that the company should pay the Australian by-product manufacturers a price equal to the f.o.b. British port price for sulphate of ammonia plus the equivalent of freight to Australia and landing charges, and plus duty for the time being operating.
Further on the report says -
The board has closely investigated every means of achieving this desirable result and has concluded that it would be practicable to provide by special enactment for rebate of the duty paid on imported sulphate of ammonia subject to the following conditions: -
that the Minister shall be satisfied that the importations are necessary to make up the amount by which Australian production is short of requirements; and
that the individual or concern to whom rebate is to be paid had contracted for the purchase of the whole of the Australian output at a price acceptable to the Australian manufacturers, but not exceeding the price at which sulphate of ammonia could bo landed duty paid in Australia at the existing rates of duty.
In other words, the board proposes that one company shall be given the sole control of the sale of sulphate of ammonia in Australia, that it shall be empowered to fix the price of by-products from the gas companies, and that to a certain extent it shall be allowed to import sulphate of ammonia ; any duties payable to be rebated to the company. At the same time, all other importers of sulphate of ammonia or fertilizers of any kind will have to pay duty. That is the most extraordinary recommendation that has ever been placed before this House, and it indicates the powerful influence that can be brought to bear in influential quarters. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has voiced the keen desire of his Government to have closer settlement and more intense production in Australia. The other day he referred to the evidences of production that he had seen at Yan Yean. Every intelligent person must admit that it will be to the greatest advantage of Australia if every encouragement is given to the importation of fertilizers of every description as cheaply as possible. I hope that the representations made to cheapen and make ample the supplies of fertilizers available for the producer will be given effect by the Government.
– A question of importance to Australia at the present time is the disorganization that is developing in connexion with our wheat and wool-growing industries. For some considerable time, owing to the influence of banking institutions and those who control the distribution of finance, credit has been withdrawn largely from our rural districts, and expenditure has been increased in the large centres of population, with the result that to-day a large number of people in the thickly populated areas are unemployed, and this nation is experiencing extreme difficulty in meeting its internal and external obligations, because the receipts from our primary products are not sufficient for our requirements. Every effort should be made to alter, the existing state of affairs. To do that, it is necessary to develop a national organization and a national influence that will tend to bring credits back to the rural districts, where they are so badly needed. I admit that certain State and private institutions have been giving credit to individual producers; but their resources are limited. Never in the history of the Commonwealth was credit more needed than it is at the present time. Existing organizations appear to have failed to meet the growing needs of the country. Doubtless, the volume1 of noninterestbearing deposits is so small that the private banking institutions have had to withdraw credits from the producers and to compel individuals to so reduce their overdrafts that they have found it difficult to carry on. I appreciate fully the good work that has been done by the Rural Industries Board and other institutions that have come to the rescue of the producer and have enabled him to plant his crops for the current season. There is an immediate necessity to continue operations which will, in the near future, further develop the volume of primary production. To that end provision should be made for further advances to be made to individual settlers. Numbers of settlers do not now come within the scope of the functions of the Rural Industries Board, or of the Thorby Act, although they have assets which they could offer to a financial institution as security for credits to enable them to increase the productiveness of their holdings. To such settlers we must look for any large increase in the volume of production. ‘ The existing financial institutions have failed to meet their requirements. Let me instance the case of a man whose land was valued by a competent valuer at over £5,600; his overdraft with the bank amounted to a few hundred pounds; he had a number of ewes ready for lambing; his credit in the bank was £40 ; his unsold wool was valued at £240. He desired to purchase fodder to keep his ewes in a satisfactory condition, but was short to the extent of £100. When he approached the manager of the bank with which he did business for that amount, he was told that instructions had been issued by the head office that overdrafts were not to be increased. Failing to obtain the money he needed from the private banking institution he approached the Rural Industries Board, only to be told that as his was not a necessitous case the board could not render him assistance. His failure to get credit at that critical time meant that half of his ewes and all his lambs died. That instance shows clearly the necessity for government bodies cooperating to assist settlers.
Australia’s pressing problem to-day is that of unemployment. That problem can be solved only by increasing primary production, and thus drawing people away from the cities. The action of financial institutions in investing their funds chiefly in the big centres of population has tended towards centralization. We must get the people back again into the country, and increase the volume of production there. We must make it possible for primary producers to offer employment that will be immediately productive. The Government has approached the private banking institutions with a view to getting them to advance credits to primary producers who have assets and are willing to find employment for men on reproductive works, such as subdivisions, dam sinking and clearing and improving land; but unfortunately they have clone little to relieve the situation. Surely it should be possible for our national financial institutions to make credit available to these settlers. There are many men who would fallow their land, ring-bark their timber, or otherwise improve their properties, and so increase their productivity as well as provide employment if they could be provided with credit. The provision of credit for such purposes is a matter of outstanding importance to this Parliament. Where advances could, safely be made to enable men to provide employment for others in works that would be reproductive, seme means of making advances should be found. During the last six or nine months, the private banks have called upon many settlers to reduce their overdrafts when they would have been perfectly safe in increasing them. As a practical valuer, I know that the land* on which those advances have been made has not been over-valued. Seeing that the private banks have refused, to function in a normal way, the obligation devolves on our national financial institution to assist settlers to improve their holdings. I commend the Government’s proposals for the establishment of a wheat pool and the extension of facilities under the Rural Industries Act, and the Thorby scheme in New South Wales, but I should like to see some means whereby men in a better position, whose security is undoubted, could be given credit, and thus be enabled to increase production and, provide work for some of the unemployed in our midst. I suggest that the responsible officers of local governing bodies be asked to cooperate in the preparation of a sound system of credits.
.- The criticism of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) of the butter marketing scheme which is known by my name, shows that he does not understand its working. He made use of figures which had been supplied by persons who either did not understand the scheme or did not wish to understand it. The honorable gentleman advocated co-operation as a cure for the difficulties of the dairyman. There is probably no industry in Australia in which there is greater cooperation than the dairying industry. In Queensland, practically 100 per cent, of the production of butter and cheese takes place in co-operative factories. I am unable to give the exact figures for New South Wales, but I know that by far the greater part of the butter manufactured in that State is made in co-operative factories. The production of butter in Victoria is about 60 per cent, co-operative, and 40 per cent, proprietary. In South Australia - the State from which the honorable member for Boothby comes - the proportion of butter manufactured by proprietary companies is somewhat greater than that manufactured by cooperative companies. In Tasmania, the dairymen also have their co-operative factories. I suppose it would be safe to
Say that at least three-quarters of the butter manufactured in Australia is produced in co-operative factories. The scheme which the honorable gentleman criticized is a splendid example of successful voluntary co-operation. The honorable member said that the merchants are getting the greater part of the benefits of this scheme; that the dairymen are not benefiting greatly by it. I flatly contradict that statement. The dairymen are getting the full benefit of the scheme. It j jay surprise the .honorable gentleman to know that the administration of the scheme is so simple - it is almost automatic - that its per capita cost is about 9d. per annum for each dairyman, or approximately the value of half a pound of butter-fat. In the aggregate, the dairymen of Australia have benefited from the scheme to the extent of over £3,300,000 during the last twelve months. That benefit they have obtained at a cost of about 9d. each.
The honorable gentleman seemed to think that the levy of lid. was part of the cost of administering the scheme. It is not. That money goes into a fund from which bounties are paid. It is used entirely in the interests of the dairymen. I point out, further, that the scheme which he has criticized embodies exactly the same principle as that which the Government behind which he sits has seen fit to adopt in connexion with the wine industry. There is absolutely no difference in principle, the only minor difference being that whereas in connexion with the wine industry the Government collects through the Customs Department, a levy in the form of an increased excise duty of 5s. a gallon, and puts it into a fund from which the export bounties are paid, the dairying industry voluntarily pays into a fund a tax imposed on itself and by itself, and from that fund pays the bounty on exported butter. In essence there is no difference between the butter scheme and the scheme for assisting the wine industry proposed by the Government which the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) supports.
In explaining the operation of this system I shall ask two questions, and endeavour to answer them: Is this scheme justifiable? What is the scheme, and how does it work? It is first necessary to bring to the attention of honorable members the condition of the dairying industry three and a half years ago before this marketing scheme was put into operation. At that time dairymen had to accept, for a large and constantly increasing portion of each year, export parity rates, not only for the butter they sent overseas, but also for what they sold in Australia. That, rate invariably ruled the local price when there was an exportable surplus. “When butter supplies were short it was possible to get a little more for the butter on the local market, but about the time this scheme was introduced the industry had developed to such a point that there was an exportable surplus nearly all the year round in some part or other of Australia. In South Australia the export of butter begins about July. In Victoria it begins about August or September, and in New South Wales, where the dairying industry is dependent in the Northern Rivers district upon paspalum, which is a summer grass, the export season begins in October or November, and indeed during January and February, exports are often heaviest. Queensland is later still; so that by the time Queensland had finished her export season, South Australia was just about ready to start again. So great is the range of climate throughout this vast continent that the butter export season might be said to last throughout the entire year. The result was that no State, even though it had not an exportable surplus, could get much above export parity rates for its butter, because the local price was limited by that at which the nearest exporting State was able to land its butter in its neighbour’s market. South Australia is a State which suffers a good deal from drought. It is not an ideal dairying State, although a certain amount of dairying is done, and in good years there is a considerable amount of butter available for export.
– South Australia used to export up to 1,000 tons a year. Since this scheme has been in operation the quantity exported has been much reduced.
– The production of butter is dependent almost entirely upon rainfall, and I need not remind the honorable member that the last three or four years have been particularly dry in South Australia, with the result that there »has been a marked falling off in the quantity of butter produced. One might expect that the dairy farmers would be able to recoup themselves to some extent for reduced production by obtaining higher prices during bad seasons, but there was no prospect of their being able to do this so long as Victoria had an exportable surplus. The price of butter in South Australia continued to be governed by export parity, plus the cost of transport from Victoria to South Australia. Three of four years ago the position had become acute. The dairymen were paying Australian prices for everything they used in their homes and on their farms, and those prices, due largely to our fiscal policy and artificial living standards, are 20 to 25 per cent, higher here than in Great Britain. Thus the dairymen were paying more than 20 per cent, above world prices for what they had to buy, and were receiving 20 per cent, less than world prices for what they had to sell. Export parity rate means considerably less than world prices. That point is seldom grasped by would-be economists. Export parity rates are world prices, less all costs incidental to transporting goods, perhaps 12,000 miles, less losses from deterioration in transit, and less insurance and other charges. Before this marketing scheme came into operation export parity prices were 3d. per lb., less than world rates. The dairyman received this reduced price, not only for the butter he exported, but also for what was sold in the home market. He lost the equivalent of ocean freights on butter that was never transported; he lost the cost of marine insurance on butter that was not insured, and he lost the equivalent of exchange charges on butter that never came in contact with the London exchange position. Deterioration is sometimes considerable on butter that, has to be transported to the other end of the world, as it is at least two months old when marketed, and is frozen as hard as wood. Whatever was lost in this way on butter actually exported was also lost on the butter fresh out of the churn. If the Australian dairymen could put on the London grocers’ counter butter as freshly made as they sell to the Melbourne grocers, they would be able to command for it a better price than they get for it in London to-day.
It is a matter of elementary economics to recognize that no industry could carry on under such a lopsided system. Something had to be done. Men were going out of the industry every day. Many returned soldiers, who had taken up blocks in the expectation of making a living from dairying, were leaving their holdings and drifting to the cities. Although it may appear an exaggeration to those who have not considered the matter, it is absolutely true that a large proportion of the dairymen of Australia were, before this scheme came into operation, receiving a considerably smaller return for their week’s work of seven days than the lowest-paid operative in the factories to which they sent their cream. The can washer received regularly his £4 10s. or £4) 15s. a week under an Arbitration Court award, and I make bold to say that a majority of the dairymen were not at that time receiving as much for their labour. For the information of honorable members, and more particularly of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), I shall recall what was done to remedy this position. It took a great deal of time and work to educate dairymen to recognize the advantages of the scheme which I proposed, and, at my own expense, I visited every State of the Commonwealth, except Western Australia, in order to confer with the representatives of the industry.
– Western Australia did not come into the scheme.
– She is getting the benefit of it without paying any levy. As a butter-producing State Western Australia is practically negligible. She does not produce enough butter for her own needs, and imports from other States three-fifths of her requirements. All the States with an exportable surplus came into the scheme. Under the scheme a levy of 1 3/4d. per lb. is voluntarily paid on every lb. of butter produced, and that goes into a fund from which the bounty is paid on butter exported. It may be asked what advantage is derived from that? It certainly looks, on the face of it, like robbing Peter to pay Paul - as if the dairymen were taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. In practice, however, that is not so. The direct result of the payment of an export bounty is that automatically, without any regulation, or compulsion or legislation, the local price, through the operation of an economic law, rises to the level of the export price, plus the amount of the bounty paid. It cannot do otherwise. It is a case of making use of an economic law, instead of fighting it. Had the butter industry tried to fix an arbitrary price for the local market, that price could only have been maintained by setting up elaborate machinery to compel every butter factory to take its fair share of both the export and the local markets. That would have been a very difficult undertaking, and the administration costs would have been greater per dairyman than 9d. per annum. This system works out in a very simple way: The dairyman pays to the factory 1 3/4d. a lb. on butter manufactured, which is used to provide an export bounty of 4$d. a lb. on the butter exported, which is a little more than one-third of our total production. During last year the production of butter in Australia was in the neighbourhood of 125,000 tons, of which 80,000 tons was consumed in Australia and 45,000 tons, or a little more than onethird, was exported. It will be obvious to honorable members that the lid. a lb. collected on the 125,000 tons provides a fund, sufficiently large to enable the payment of a bounty of 4’id. a lb. on the 45,000 tons exported. The effect of this arrangement is that instead of the local market being depressed right down to the level of export parity rates it fluctuates on the basis of export parity rates plus the amount of the bounty. The local market must adjust itself to the value that can be obtained by exporting plus the bounty. If the seller by exporting can claim a bounty, he will not sell on the local market under a rate that he could obtain by exporting and claiming that bounty. Consequently, the bounty is reflected in the price obtained on the local market, and the benefit to the dairyman is about 3d. per lb. of butter fat. The 3d. per lb. represents approximately £2 10s. per cow per annum, on the basis of a cow producing 200 lb. of butter-fat and a dairyman milking 30 such cows, would receive £75 per annum extra, which very often represents the difference between profit and loss. This action, which has been taken by the dairymen in their own interests, is absolutely justified so long as our present highly artificial standards are maintained. Is it reasonable to expect, a person living in a country where his money will purchase 20 per cent. less than it would in Great Britain to sell his product in Australia at a price 20 per cent. below its value in Great Britain? That was the position before this scheme came into operation.
I do not wish to weary honorable members in discussing this question; but it appears to me to be worth while to make a comparison between a secondary industry in Australia which has always been in a position to receive the Australian price for its output, and the butter industry which, strictly speaking, is also a secondary industry as cream is its raw material. The woollen manufacturing industry is regarded as a secondary one. The production of the wool is a primary industry, but its manufacture into yarn and cloth is a secondary one. One would suppose that the butter factories and woollen mills in Australia would be on the same economic plane, both being secondary industries, using primary products. Although there is not the marked difference between their economic position to-day that there was four years ago, I should like to show how wide was the gap before the Paterson scheme came into operation. I should like to explain the position in this way: Let us suppose that the desk before me represents the level of world’s value of manufactured cloth, the product of an Australian secondary industry, and also of a box of butter, the product of an Australian factory. As we do not yet produce in Australian sufficient woollen goods for our own needs - though we are gradually overtaking the demand and producing more - we have to import the balance, principally from Great Britain. When that cloth leaves Great Britain at what we may term the level of the world’s prices ocean transport charges and customs duty have to be added, which brings the price of the cloth above world’s rates. The Australian woollen mill has therefore only to meet competition raised well above world’s levels by transport costs and duties. It is, therefore, above the world’s price to the extent of the cost of transport and customs duties. Let us consider now butter prices in the same way. Before the present butter stabilization scheme came into existence - again taking the desk as representing the level of world’s values - our surplus of butter exported had to bear an ocean transport charge, which brought its value in Australia below the level of world values. To this disability must be added whatever loss we incur in values due to deterioration during transport over thousands of miles, and during the period it was in cold storage in Great Britain, which brought the price still more below the level of world’s price. In other words, a producer with an exportable surplus had to be content with being two rungs below the level of world’s price not only as regards his exported production but on that sold to well-paid Australian consumers. He was two rungs below world’s prices instead of two rungs above, where most of our secondary industries stand. This scheme has done something to remedy that position. I contend that the dairymen of Australia are justified in adhering to this scheme until such time as every other industry in Australia is on a purely competitive level. When Australian industries generally are prepared to sell their products at export parity rates I shall be prepared to advise the dairymen of Australia to do the same.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) for the able manner in which he has explained a subject with which he is, of course, very familiar. In putting the position very clearly from the producers’ point of view the honorable member entirely overlooked the interests of the consumer.
– I am a consumer; I am not a producer of butter.
– The honorable member contends that the butter producers have to pay 20 per cent. more for the commodities they require than is paid in the countries in which their products are sold.
– We have a very high tariff.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the dairy-farmers in Australia have to pay 20 per cent. more for their land?
– A good deal of the land in Australia is sold at a higher price than is obtained for similar land in Great Britain.
– The land, the cows, water, and the general equipment of a dairy-farmer do not cost 20 per cent, more in Australia than in the countries in which their product is sold. Australian butter is sold in London at ls. lid. per lb., but the price charged in Melbourne is ls. 7£d. per lb.
– The difference between Australian and London prices is about 2½d. per lb.
– The honorable member believes that the butter industry in Australia should be stabilized at the expense of the consumers whom he is supposed to represent.
– Including some engaged in highly protected industries in the electorate represented by the honorable member.
– Notwithstanding what the honorable member has said, I consider that a grave injustice has been done to the people of this country as, although we consume a larger quantity of butter than we export, they are compelled to pay a higher price than is paid overseas.
– Australian consumers obtain their supplies fresh from the factory.
– They were able to do so before this scheme was introduced. There does not appear to be any reason why consumers in the country where butter is produced in large quantities should be compelled to pay a higher rate tb an is charged in Great Britain, and I trust that something will be done to protect the Australian consumers who are surely entitled to greater consideration than they are receiving at present.
I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) to the retrenchment that is taking place in the department under his control. I was recently informed by a friend of mine, who had been employed on the seaplane carrier Albatross, that there are no fewer than 30 officers on that vessel, including several paymasters. I have also been informed that a small fleet of pinnaces is almost constantly employed carrying officers ashore to play golf during the clay, and to attend social functions at night. I understand that the
Minister is obtaining a report from a committee of naval and military officers on the subject of retrenchment, but it is not likely that the members of such a committee will recommend that they or the officers with whom they are associated should be retrenched. A committee of this House should be appointed to inquire into the whole matter. A good deal of unnecessary expenditure is also incurred in the training of naval officers and engineers at the Jervis Bay Naval College. I understand that there is not a practical man among them. That college is costing a tremendous amount of money; but the officers trained in it are of little use to the Government when their period of training has been completed. A son of an ex-member of this House was trained at the Royal Military College at Duntroon, and was later sent to England to complete his training, which cost £4,000. When he returned a suitable position could not be found for him, and he eventually became a school teacher.
On previous occasions I have directed attention to the unsatisfactory position which exists in connexion with the La Perouse golf links, which were leased by the late Government to a golf club. The land, which consists of 292 acres, is in the vicinity of Botany Bay, is handy to the city, and eminently suited for the building of dwellings. The golf club applied for the use of an additional area of land held by the Defence Department, and the application was granted. The result is that to-day the military men from the Paddington Barracks spend a good deal of their time playing golf in my electorate. There is also a rifle range in my electorate which is not really required for military purposes. The people would like to get the. land for building purposes. Seeing that we have good rifle ranges at Long Bay and Liverpool, there seems to be little reason for retaining the Randwick range. When the permission of the military department was sought some time ago to put a road through the range, the reply was that this would make the range useless for machine gun practice. Could anything be more ridiculous than the suggestion that machine gun practice should be engaged in near South Kensington, with its large population? A committee of this House should be appointed to investigate the affairs of themilitary department. The Government could dispose of the land which the department has leased to the golf club, and also the Randwick rifle range, without injuring anybody, and it could make the money obtained from the sale available for reproductive work. A beautiful block of land at Coogee was being used until comparatively recently for the manufacture of aeroplanes ; but the work has now been transferred to Cockatoo Island and that land could also be sold.
Economies could also be effected by the dismissal of the staff at present maintained on the two useless submarines which are lying in the Sydney Harbour. These vessels, which are a monument to t he stupidity of the previous Government, have never been out of the harbour, and are never likely to be taken out of it. They never were any good.
It would be possible for the Government to reduce expenditure very substantially in connexion with the establishments of the Governor-General. The retention of the big residence on St. Kilda road, Melbourne, cannot be justified, nor can the expenditure on Admiralty House, Sydney. A suitable Sydney residence for the Governor-General could be built on a vacant block of land next to Admiralty House. The expenditure in these directions absolutely dwarfs the cost of the Paterson butter stabilization scheme.
When questions are asked in this House about the possibility of reducing military and naval expenditure, the replies are prepared by the officials of the department to suit their own views; the true facts of the case are rarely disclosed. During the last election campaign I stated very definitely that I would do my utmost to reduce the expenditure of the navy and military departments. I do not believe that Australia is likely to be. invaded for very many years to come, if ever, and there is no need to continue heavy expenditure on useless defence measures. I am opposed to the cutting down of the workers’ wages while officers of the navy and army continueto draw large salaries for performing useless services.
– I am surprised that an ardent protec tionist like the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) should complain because the dairy farmers of Australia are trying to protect themselves. Prior to the inauguration of the Paterson stabilization scheme, the Australian workers, who receive much higher wages than the workers in England, were paying less for their butter than the English workers; but since the scheme has been in operation the price of butter in Australia is about 2½d. per lb. more than in England. In these circumstances there is no justification for the condemnation of the Paterson scheme by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and the honorable member for South Sydney.
My main object in participating in the debate, however, is to reply to certain newspaper statements of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), in answer to remarks of mine that were published in the press in regard to the recent prohibitions of and surcharges on imports. I said that the prohibitions in relation to 40 articles in the 57 prohibited items had already been modified. The Acting Minister has denied this statement, but I can prove my case from the reply he gave to a question which I asked him in this House on the 14th May. I inquired -
In the course of his reply the honorable gentleman intimated that to meet cases of hardship permission to import goods covered by the proclamation had been given in the following instances, among others : -
Seed, canary - two-thirds of importations for year ended 31st March, 1930, provided imported prior to 1st December, 1930.
Chuffcutters and horse gears.
Goods concerning which satisfactory evidence is produced to Collector that such goods were actually despatched from factory of overseas manufactured or supplied prior to 4th April, 1930, for shipment to Australia.
Goods imported for export provided entered for warehousing and entry endorsed “ For export only.”
Bolts, nuts, rivets, and engineers’ set screws of a class or kind not commercially manufactured in Australia, and which are imported for repair or maintenance purposes, provided satisfactory evidence produced to Collector that such goods are not commercially manufactured in Australia.
Bolts and nuts which are imported as spare parts of any machine or appliance, provided imported with machine or appliance of which they are spare parts.
Hollow brass rivets.
Sago powder. (For infants’ and invalids’ food.)
Goods imported by the Commonwealth Government.
Goods imported by Consuls.
Motor cycle batteries. (Not made in Australia.)
Sugarless jams and jellies, and sugarless cocoa and chocolate. (For diabetic patients.) Wine linings.
Samples of confectionery imported by confectionery manufacturers, provided strictly samples, and only one sample of each line. (Manufacturers require these samples in order to keep in touch with new lines produced abroad, also packing methods.)
Ships’ stores which are not actually landed in the Commonwealth.
Goods essentially for Chinese use of a kind not made in Australia, if bona fide for Chinese residents.
Canned corn (Canadian) and canned beans (bearing labels for Australian market and ready for shipment.)
Electric ranges. (Wired to Australian voltages. Electricity Commission will arrange manufacture after these importations.)
Gas ranges and grillors (three only) (special orders ) .
Electric locomotives (six only), and iron pipes (small quantity). - Portion of large order for large low-grade ore mine. Paid for in London by English capital.
Mild steel channels, of a size not manufactured in Australia (26 only).
Malted milk, Horlick’s (Suitable for infants) - 50 per cent. of previous importations.
Pastilles, medicated (Allen & Hanbury and Evans, Lescher & Webb) - 25 per cent. of previous importations.
Husks, diabetic (Allen & Hunbury) - 25 per cent, of previous importations.
Potato starch - 27 tons only. (Raw material not obtainable here.)
Tragantine - 5 tons only. (For manufacturing purposes.)
Dry cells, balance of contract for Postal Department. (Manufactured to special specification and branded “ Commonwealth of Australia.”)
This clearly shows that my statement was entirely justified. As a matter of fact 51 articles are mentioned in the list the Acting Minister supplied me with.
– The right honorable member said that 40 items out of the 57 bad been removed from the list of embargoes, and that is not the case.
– In the Acting Minister’s press reply to my statement he used the word “ articles,” which was the word I used ; and the Customs Department meaning of “ article “ is very different from that of “ item.” But the fact that “ articles “ have been removed and not “ items “ makes the position still more serious, for it tends to give individual traders an unfair advantage over other traders. When I asked the question about the exemptions that had been granted, I also asked the Acting Minister : -
In any future alterations to the schedule of embargoes, will the Minister make a public statement in the House indicating what these exemptions are, the reasons therefor, and the date of operation, in the same manner as the announcement regarding the original schedule was made?
That, I suggest, is a reasonable request. It was never intended by the Government when the embargo was placed upon certain imports, that individual traders should be given an unfair advantage over other traders. It is only fair that when articles are removed from the list of embargoes, a public statement should be made to that effect, so that all the persons doing business in these articles would be on an even footing.
– I am surprised to hear that any articles have been removed from the list without a public statement having been made to that effect.
– I assure the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that that has been done. I hope that the Government will, in future, adopt the procedure that I have suggested. This is necessary to keep the administration of the department absolutely above suspicion. There is not a trader in the community who would not favour my proposal.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) sugge sted, in the course of his speech, that the cost of production should be reduced in Australia, in order that the cost of living might also be reduced. Unfortunately, certain features of our fiscal policy make it extremely difficult to reduce the cost of production. The fact that wo impose heavy duties on the importation of certain machinery prevents many manufacturers from installing uptodate equipment. I have been advised from two sources - one in the country and the other in the city - within the last week or so, that certain persons engaged in the wood-working industry are carrying on their business with plant which is fifteen or twenty years behind the times. The case is put clearly in a letter which I received only a couple of days ago and from which I quote the following paragraphs : -
We have no hesitation in saying that thu majority of wood-working plants, particularly in this “State, are about fifteen years behind their overseas competitors, chiefly due to the machinery in use, and, unfortunately, still being installed.
In the vast majority, the whole plant is run from a single motor, sometimes running into 10 horse-power, and in very many cases, there will be one or two machines in operation at the same time. Also, the practice is still in use of using a 12-in. machine with a 3 horse-power motor to do a job of 4-in., which could be done economically on a 4-in. machine with a i horse-power. It is safe to say that hardly one of the heavier machines is working up to 20 per cent, of its capacity. This is repeated in hundreds of shops, dozens of times per day, with an enormous waste, both in current and expenditure on plant and tipkeep
We can quote one shop with a capital outlay on plant of £450 taking 55 minutes to do a job which is done in another shop, with a capital outlay on plant of £125, in seven minutes. The former is a constant applicant for more tariff; the latter stated frankly that they did not require it.
That is a typical instance of the way in which the cost of production is increased, to the detriment of the people.
If there is one kind of appliance that should be put into the homes of the people it is the labour-saving device. Take electric- washing machines. “We find that, because of the manner in which tariff duties are imposed, small motors of i horse-power, which are used to drive these machines, carry a duty of £5 each, because that duty applies to motors of 5 horse-power, or less. These machines, which ought to be in the home of every worker, cost £60 each, and there is no prospect of their being manufactured in. Australia for many years. It appears that they are sold in America and Great Britain for £20. The duty has practically doubled the original cost. If these machines could be placed on the local market at £25 or £30 each, they would practically sell themselves.
– When was the duty put on?
– The duty on small motors was increased in November last.
– What would be the difference between the tariff imposed by this Government and that put on by the late Government?
– In 1925, the late Government took the duty off electric sweepers, and the price dropped from £16 to £9. The point I am making is that there should be a further classification of these goods. At the present time there is an embargo on the importation of electric refrigerators, which would be of incalculable value to the people for the preservation of food.
– The importers charged £100 each for them, when they could have sold them for £60.
– I visited an electrical show in Sydney about six weeks ago, and I was informed that it was impossible to produce the whole of the unit in Australia.
– I understand that a company in Sydney is now making a complete refrigerating machine.
– At any rate, Australian manufacturers cannot meet the local demand, and, owing to the embargo, many householders are deprived of the use of this modern convenience.
– At the price importers are charging for them, people of the poor and middle classes cannot buy them.
– My experience of these machines leads me to believe that the value of the food that would be saved in two years by using them would be equal to the original cost of the appliance; but if its importation is to be prohibited, an unnecessary hardship will be imposed on many householders.
– When the late Government was in office, the average cost of a machine such as would be required in an ordinary home was £100.
– But that Government did not place an embargo upon their importation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman know that an Australian refrigerator now sells at £65, as against £89, which is the price charged for a similar machine of American manufacture?
– I do not believe that there is that difference between the prices of refrigerators of the same size.
– There is.
– Then the prices to-day are different from those ruling six weeks ago, when I attended the Show in Sydney.
– The price of electric vacuum cleaners was not reduced when the duty was removed.
– It was reduced within a year, because the article that had cost £16 was being sold at £9.
– Competition brought down the price.
– I am asking for competition in the sale of household refrigerators and appliances of that nature. I am prepared to support the imposition of embargoes on the importation of absolute luxuries ; but I urge the Government to re-classify certain items, so that the public will ‘ not be needlessly penalized by being prevented from using them.
.- I draw attention to the advantage that the Commonwealth would derive from a revival of interest in gold-mining. A conference on this subject was held at Bendigo on Monday last, and it was attended by representatives of organizations of miners in Victoria and other States. A number of honorable members of this House were also present. The resolution of the conference was that a gold bounty of £1 an ounce be paid. Nearly every industry in the Commonwealth is in receipt of assistance of some kind, and gold producers are as much entitled to a bounty as other primary producers. If this industry could be carried on successfully, it would assist Australia to a considerable degree in solving the unemployment problem, because 60 per cent, of the money spent on gold-mining represents wages. There are thousands of men throughout the Commonwealth who have devoted their lives to either alluvial or deep gold-mining, and if assistance were given to mining companies, or to tributing or prospecting groups, regular employment could be provided for a large number of men. Mr. H. W. Gepp attended the conference, through the courtesy of the Government, and during the morning the delegates inspected the Red White and Blue mine, where work is now being carried on at the 600-ft. level. If this company could expend a further £800, permanent work- could he given to 50 miners. I do not suggest that that amount should he presented to the company as a gift, but, if it were advanced on suitable terms, much benefit would result.
– How could permanent work be assured?
– Because the mine is now producing fairly good ore. It has been worked for 50 years or more. A steam generator is used for the dewatering of the mine, and the company pays £200 a month for firewood alone. If it were able to install a winding plant, driven by electricity generated by an engine of its own, a saving of £50 a week would be made immediately.
– There should be good local backing for a “ show “ like that.
– Within a radius of twelve miles of Bendigo there are about 120 mines. 95 per cent, of which are closed owing to the slump in the industry. For an expenditure of £800 this company could give permanent employment to many men. Mr. Gepp, who is a mining expert, furnished a report in respect of this mine as late as last month. Some time ago he examined the mine and made a recommendation to the Bruce-Page Government, which is did not accept. Unemployment is rife in our midst. We are likely to have a good wheat season, but, after all, the wheat industry does not employ many men. Even if we grow more cotton in the years to come that industry will not employ many men. Neither the flax nor the wine industry, both of which are being assisted by bounty, will give very much employment. Our railway systems are unfortunately on the down grade, and within the last few months some 50,000 railway employees have been dismissed.
– A good harvest would result in the re-employment of nearly all those men.
– I hope that that will be the case, but the hard cold fact remains that our railways are on the down grade, and it is more than probable that most of the branch lines will soon cease running altogether. In nearly every industry, the introduction of machinery and new methods of organization have resulted in the elimination of human labour. I believe that a revival of mining would lead to the prosperous conditions which obtained in 1851. The discovery of gold at that time brought to Australia the cream of the workers of Great Britain. Our fathers blazed the trail to Australia, and they helped to make Australia what it is to-day. I remember when gold was discovered in Western Australia. I was then living in Melbourne, and I had experienced the horrible distress of that period. When gold was discovered, 36,000 people left Victoria for Western Australia. It may be contended that our gold mines are worked out, but the mining experts say that even in the Bendigo field, apart altogether .from the deep mines, which are not by any means worked out, there are lines of reef still unexploited on which thousands of men could be employed if some inducement were given for opening up mines. Under Victorian legislation individual miners, who are prepared to open up and work small claims, are given £ SO spread over a period of twelve months. That sum may bc utilized as a living allowance. I am given to understand that a number of these men are making a good living. In this way the gold-mining industry is being encouraged. Unlike other industries, it allows the initiative of the individual to have play. We all know that the average Australian has plenty of initiative. The man who is prepared to go into the bush with a shovel and dish to prospect for gold is entitled to receive some financial backing from the national government.
– What about a gold bounty.
– I am not dealing with that proposal at present.
– The Commonwealth has made £25.000 available to the States for the purpose of gold-prospecting. A portion of that sum has been allotted to Victoria, yet much of it remains unclaimed.
– That is news to me, because I know of at least twelve men who have approached the Victorian Government for assistance to enable them ;o prospect for gold, and they have been informed that no money is available for that purpose.
– The money has been made available by the Commonwealth for the purpose of prospecting for precious metals.
– I am pleased to hear that. The army of unemployed has grow enormously as a result, not of drought and financial depression, but of the re-organization of industry and the use of modern machinery, which is displacing human labour more and more. Nearly every industry in Australia receives some financial assistance from the governments of Australia. If it is right that the wheat, wine and other industries should receive financial assistance, it i-; equally right that gold-mining should be assisted. Gold is dug out of the ground, and does not compete with the product of any other industry. It has not even the assistance of the protective tariff. It is a marketable product, and there are no shipping freights to be paid. Indeed, the production of gold would assist in stabilizing Australian currency. Recently a conference, convened by those interested in the gold-mining industry, was attended by 170 representatives of at least 60 different industries. It was the largest conference of its kind that has been held in Australia. It is intended to convene smaller conferences in each of the States, and to ask the Commonwealth Government to assist the industry something op the lines that I have indicated to-day. There is an army of miners whose services could be utilized almost immediately in working mines that have been closed down, and also quartz mines, both below and on the surface. These men could be absorbed week by week into the industry. If the mines were working, and a gold bounty of £1 an ounce were granted, a tremendous impetus would be given to the gold-mining industry. The average output of gold for last year and the year before was about £600,000. It is a large amount of money, but I would remind honorable members that if a bounty were granted, it would not be- paid until the gold actually had been won from the ground. In this matter there are two aspects to be considered. Immediately the magic word “gold” is broadcast, capital will be forthcoming. That has been the experience of the past. Then again, the industry w-ill require additional and more up-to-date machinery, and that will assist the engineering industries of Australia. More men will be employed and additional wages paid. More money will be circulated among the community. The primary producer will have a better home market for his product than he has at present. That would go a long way towards solving the unemployment problem of this country. Honorable members should use their efforts to the utmost to make this a live question. I myself have taken the earliest opportunity of bringing it before the House. The Australian output of gold in 1906 was 14,500,000 oz., and twenty years afterwards, in 1926, it had fallen to under 3,000,000 oz. In 1851, 200,000 oz. of gold were extracted from the Bendigo fields and two years later 661,000 oz. In 1929, the output from that field had fallen to 13,000 oz. It might be argued that the mines are worked out, but I suggest that that is impossible. Mining experts have assured me, and they also assured the late Government, that there was gold to be won on that field. Unfortunately, production costs are high. Not only are the wages higher to-day than they were in the old days, but the industry is badly in need of reorganization. Some improvement must be effected in the management of the mines of Australia if the industry is to be placed upon a workable and sound basis. I have discussed this subject with the miners themselves. I have said to them, “ Supposing you had a good prospect but could make only 35s. a week, what would you do?” They have replied, “ That is not your business; your business is to use your influence and brains in obtaining assistance for the industry; this is the onlyway in which we can make a livelihood ; and we would be better off earning £3 a week than we are at present, earning nothing.”
– That is the position of a lot of workers in other industries.
– Other industries are organized, and are receiving assistance from the Government. The mining industry is in a different category altogether. I have a close knowledge of every part of Australia, and it occurred to me long before I represented a rural constituency in this Parliament, that there is no more horrible spectacle in Australia than the crowding of our people into the -cities. We see magnificent children living in the slums of every capital city in Australia. They are herded together under almost impossible conditions. What opportunity have they of enjoying a healthy life? When I visit my electorate and other country electorates and breathe the wholesome air .with the sun shining and the blue sky overhead, I wonder how the members of this Federal Parliament can restrain themselves from giving a punch to centralization.
– It would be better to punch the land.
– One thing at a time I shall deal with land when I have had longer experience as a rural member. For the moment I am dealing with gold. The development of mining brings out the pioneering instinct of the Australian to go into the bush and look for gold. If some encouragement were given in the shape of a bounty, dr financial assistance from the Federal Government made available through State Governments to mining groups, tributing parties who know where to look for gold would work the mines and get it. Expert advice tells us that the gold-mining industry is by no means at an end in Australia. Its development would certainly bring about a truly country population. It would attract thousands from cities. We are in a hopeless position in Australia to-day, because every new arrival is anxious to secure employment in city industries, which are already overcrowded. With a revival of gold-mining we should not hear discussions in this chamber of the need for assisting migrants to come to Australia. People would come without assistance. If the position here was sufficiently attractive, we should have people coming here from the Mother Country of the same stock that came here in the time of our fathers. No better men will ever be turned out in Australia than those who came seeking gold in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties.
We are told that there is a surplus of coal-miners in Australia, and the Government is considering a scheme to enable that surplus to be absorbed in other industries. But, to my mind, a miner is a miner all the world over, whether lie is a gold-miner or a coalminer. It is true that the men employed in abnormally deep mines suffer in health. There is a mine in the Bendigo district over a mile deep, and the dusty, hot air in its workings produces horrible effects on the physique of the miners employed in it. But that disability can be avoided by the use of modern machinery and cheap electricity. It seems to me, therefore, that our surplus coal-miners may be absorbed in gold-mining. It is not enough to say, “ They are all right ; they will drift into other industries.” There is too much of that attitude. It is one of the most fruitful causes of the present fearful army of unemployed we have. The average Australian, nay, even the average legislator, has never taken the trouble or the time to study the movements of industry and of the groups of men operating in industry. What industry is capable of absorbing the surplus workers of other industries? There is none in sight, except gold-mining, that can give assured employment at a fairly lucrative remuneration. Men can be employed in mines, working for mine-owners or tributing, or on small alluvial leads such as are to be found in Victoria. No bounty should be paid until the gold has been won. But in the winning of gold other capital would be attracted. It may be asked, “Why is capital not attracted to other industries if it can be attracted to gold-mining”? Australia’s history shows that gold has always had the greatest attraction for capital. At the word, “ Gold,” capital flows freely. At any rate that has been our experience so far, and I believe history will repeat itself; capital will come to Australia to provide the machinery and the sinews of war to set an army of men at work winning gold.
– Would it not pay to win the gold at its present price without a bounty?
– I am informed that it would not pay.
– Then it would be uneconomical to win the gold.
– Experts admit that the proposal is economically unsound; but I have heard the same cry raised in the Arbitration Court for many years past.
– Would the honorable member, approve of the establishment of camps of unemployed on auriferous fields?
– Yes, if I had the organization of them.
– Would they work for a living wage?
– The Trades and Labour Council in Bendigo is aware that there are men who, while drawing a small mining allowance from the State Government, work alluvial patches near their homes. Their earnings are not more than 30s. a week, yet they are content.
– And they work when they like.
– Exactly. In addition to the wages they get out of the small grant, they also win a little gold each week. The army of men I am anxious to see placed in work is the colossal army of unemployed; light, unskilled labour, such as we have in every industry in the Commonwealth to-day. If something is not done on the lines I suggest we shall not be talking of 48 or 44 hours a week, we shall be talking of sixteen hours a week, and the man who will not be content with that will have no work at all. Honorable members must bear in mind that industry has been revolutionized. At the present moment we are seeing the change in transport from rail to road and again from road to air. The change from the horse-drawn vehicle to the road motor has displaced four or five industries.
– But it has created new work.
– Not enough to compensate for the industries displaced, and in any case, to a large extent, work previously done in Australia has been replaced by work done overseas. For the horses which drew vehicles, hay or corn had to be grown ; men were employed in ploughing, sowing and harvesting, or earned livelihoods in making harness and whips and in shoeing horses. What has displaced them? A chassis is landed in Australia from overseas, and a motor body is assembled here. There are not more than four trades represented in the industry that provides us with motor transport. The revolution that has taken place in transport has thrown out of work an army of men. In our boyhood days if a road were made it- had to be renewed every three or four years. To-day a concrete road is made by machinery and need not be renewed for 20 or 30 years. In railway construction the steam shovel will lift half a truck of material which in our boyhood days was lifted by 20 or 30 men with spades, barrow’s and planks. It is the workers whom these changes have deprived of employment. Hence my suggestion that at a very early date all parties must get together to seek a remedy. If the man who discovered Australia could see us at the present moment we should have to apologize to him for the mess we have made of this country. Something big must be done to absorb the army of unemployed light unskilled labour. Members of the Australian Workers Union, who are sitting in this chamber, know that what I am saying is correct. In their great organization there are 160,000 unemployed, the majority of them miners, sewerage workers and road workers - mostly unskilled labour. Their jobs have gone, many of them are homeless and jobless, because of the sorry muddle we have made of society. To-day the hat is being passed round to enable money to be collected to sustain life, notwithstanding the fact that Australia has such magnificent resources. We have the climate, the soil and men with physique, brains, and organizing ability, but we do not make the best use of them. The price of wool is on the rise, and it seems that we are to have a good year for wheat. The wheat pool will put the farmers on a proper footing; at any rate they will know what they are going to receive; the secondary industries are protected by a high tariff, and the primary industries are all well provided for with the exception of gold-mining.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Unemployment has increased to an alarming extent, and if remedial measures are not taken it will seriously react on every section of the community. A revival of mining would provide work for a large proportion of the men who are now unemployed. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book for 1929, the number of men employed in the gold-mining industry in 1901 was 70,972. By 1927, the number had decreased to 6,250, a decrease of 64,700. At a conservative estimate an organized revival of the industry, by the offer of a bounty on the production of gold and by improved handling by Federal and State Governments, would provide work for at least half that number. If 30,000 men who are now unemployed could be absorbed in the industry, the whole community would benefit through its increased spending power and the greater consumption of the products of other industries. From 1901 to 1910 the production of gold in Australia aggregated £142,000,000, or £14,000,000 per annum. In 1927 the production was only £2,000,000, a drop of £12,000,000 in seventeen years. The Bendigo field alone produced, in 1851, 200,000 oz. and in 1S53, the peak year, 661,000 oz. In 1929 the production on that field was only 13,662 oz. Yet experts have assured me that the gold is not exhausted, and that the reduced production is partly the re: suit of high costs. By high costs they do not mean merely wages, but also faulty organization, expensive management, and excessive profits. From 1S51 to 1927 Australia produced gold to the value of £626,000,000. In the same period the coal output was worth only £204,000,000, a difference in favour of the gold industry of £422,000,000. In Victoria £390,000,000 worth of gold was won, and the governmental assistance to the industry did not exceed £316,000. I was informed by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) a few days ago that for the wine industry alone the Commonwealth has provided, in bounties, £1,250,000. The revival of the goldmining industry would give to thousands of workers an opportunity to live in decent surroundings outside the cities. In New South Wales city dwellers are 46 per cent, of the population; in Victoria, 56 per cent. ; in Queensland, 33 per cent. ; in South Australia, 57 per cent.; and in Western Australia, 48 per cent.; but in New Zealand they are only 9 per cent.; in Russia, 1 per cent.; in Japan, 3 per cent. ; in Germany, 6 per cent. ; and in France, 7 per cent. I venture to say that in those countries whose population is mainly rural, the conditions of the workers are superior to those in the capital cities of Australia. No greater evidence of the utter failure of Australian legislation could be afforded than the desertion of the rural areas and the overcrowding of the cities.
A revival of mining would be the most effective method of decentralization, and would place a large number of workers in decent surroundings, where they could earn reasonable wages. Some opposition has been voiced to the revival of deep mining. I know by my own observations that deep mining has, in the past, bred serious diseases. One mine in the Bendigo district is over a mile deep, and work at the lower levels, in a heated and dusty atmosphere, has stricken hundreds of miners with lung disease. But I understand that modern methods of industrial hygiene, including ventilation and dust prevention, would obviate much of that trouble. In any case, most of the abnormally deep mines would not be reopened. The Trades and Labour Council in Bendigo is in sympathy with this proposal. Representatives of both employers and employees met in conference, and unanimously decided to strive for a revival of the mining industry. All sections of the community are in step, and I believe will throw their weight behind the movement. The history of Australia shows that the greatest impetus to its development was given by the gold-mining booms of 1851, 1863, and 1891. Goldmining is the pioneer of other industries. The wheat-farmers of Western Australia would not be on their holdings to-day had not some bold and hardy spirits penetrated the interior, and made those wonderful discoveries which saved the eastern States from the worst results of the financial and economic depression of the early ‘nineties. I believe that a revival of mining activity can be effected without any reckless expenditure of money. Governments and private organizations will take care that they get value for any money invested in this scheme. The Development and Migration Commission, in a report published in September, 1928, recommended -
That the Commonwealth should appropriate the unexpended balance of the £40,000 originally appropriated under the Precious Metals Prospecting Act of 1926 - amounting to approximately £30,000 - for the purpose of rendering special assistance through the States to the gold-mining and other precious metal industries. The fund to be administered by the Home and Territories Department, acting on the advice of the Development and Migration Commission, through its Minister.
Direct Federal Grant to Industry.
The commission recommends that the Commonwealth Government set aside a sum not exceeding £250,000 for direct assistance to gold-mining concerns over a period of years.
Those recommendations were made after a systematic investigation of the subject by a highly-skilled body, aided by expert geologists. Apart from a gold bounty, the present is the most opportune time for the expenditure of £300,000 in the manner suggested by the Commission, for the provision of work will afford the greatest relief, and do most to revive prosperity. The home market for primary products will be extended, and will prove much more profitable and reliable than the overseas markets. A mining revival would mean sure money for our own people, and every producer of food or clothes or other necessaries would gain through a lot of men who are now idle being provided with profitable work.
I ask honorable members to give serious thought to this subject during the next few weeks. All the objections which can be urged against goldmining on account of wild cat schemes, bad finance, and high costs of production, are outweighed by the fact that Australia is experiencing an industrial and economic crisis, and that work must be found for armies of men who are unemployed, not as a result of depression or bad seasons, but through the evolution of industry and the displacement of manpower by improved organization and machinery. The gold-mining industry offers at least as good prospects of giving an adequate return for any government assistance as does any other industry that is to-day enjoying bounties and other artificial aids. Of course if a bounty on the production of gold is offered, care will have to be taken to ensure that ventures which are already earning huge profits are not helped to the same extent as others which are less happily circumstanced. If money were made available by the Commonwealth, thousands of men would be placed in jobs, not six months hence, but almost immediately. All that 1 ask for is sufficient Government assistance to the mining industry to enable displaced workers to earn a crust.
.- I desire to draw attention to the uncertainty regarding unemployment that prevails among certain of the personnel of the Department of Defence. From time to time I have questioned the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) upon this matter. My first question was asked several weeks ago, and the last as lately as to-day. I have been informed that the information I sought is being obtained, and that a committee is inquiring into the matter, and a statement will be made at a later date. I have no wish to criticize the Minister; I realize that he is dependent on his departmental head in this matter. But it *is time that a statement was made. Many officers of the Navy, as well as of other branches of the department, have the shadow of retrenchment hanging over them. This applies also to the members of the staff corps, and to warrant officers and sergeantmajors on the instructional staff. Their enthusiasm naturally is dampened, and the morale of the forces undermined, by the fact that they do not know whether they are to be rationed, compensated, or thrown among the unemployed.
This afternoon the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), in an attack upon the Australian Navy, made ‘ some very disparaging remarks. I do not know what inspired him to do so. The officers of the Navy hold a very honorable position in the Public Service of Australia. They are not able to reply to any statements concerning them that are made in this House. They are mainly the product of that excellent, democratic institution, the Naval College at Jervis Bay. We were very proud of the sinking of the Emden during the war. Had H.M.A.S. Australia and other units of the Australian fleet not been in our waters, then we could not have sent troops to the other side of the world at the outbreak of the war. In these days of peace, when it is popular to talk of disarmament, it is not right that honorable members should decry the Navy or its officers. One statement made by the honorable mem ber for South Sydney was that these officers actually play golf. So, too, do many honorable members, and they are no better or no worse for that. This House, however, is not the place in which to attack officers because they indulge in such pastimes.
When a graduate leaves Jervis Bay he enters into a bond with the Government that he will not leave the Service before he reaches the age of thirty years. If he breaks that bond he must pay the Government up to £300. Yet the Government now contemplates dismissing some 60 naval officers from the service; and it has not made a statement as to what it intends to do with regard to the payment of compensation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and many honorable members who sit on this side have sought to elicit information on this matter, and it is high time that the Go,vernment made known its intentions.
The rumour is steadily spreading in defence circles that these officers will be dismissed with nothing more than their deferred pay. Deferred pay is not compensation, but merely a deduction that is put into trust until they leave the service. As a matter of fact, it is a banking account for these men. It is an insult to their intelligence to tell them that they will be allowed to keep what is in their banking account. It is high time that the Government considered a scheme of compensation. These officers should be adequately remunerated if they are dismissed from the service.
Only a few months ago the Government stated definitely that none of the permanent forces would be interfered with when the change was made from the compulsory to the voluntary system of service. When that change was made I and other honorable members on this side criticized the new scheme, and pointed out that under it the number of volunteers required could not be obtained. Unfortunately, that has proved to be the case, notwithstanding the efforts of those who are connected with it to make the voluntary system a success. Consequently, a number of permanent officers are now surplus on the establishment, and as the Government is compelled to exercise economy it feels obliged to institute retrenchment.
I ask the Government to give to those officers the same just and equitable treatment that it would give to any other public servant. They have no public service organization to look after their interests; they have no 44-hour week; and their pay has not increased since 1919. They have always given cheerful service to every government that has been in power, and have never complained of their conditions. They are specialists in their particular branch. The officers of the Staff Corps are graduates of Duntroon, an establishment of which we should be very proud, because it ranks high in the military academies of the world. There is the probability that about 100 of these men will be dismissed. At the present time they believe that they are to be rationed; but if they are given only ten months work in twelve some of them will be receiving less than the basic wage. Is that fair treatment to mete out to men who, if they had not entered the Service, might ha’ve succeeded in some profession? They played their part during the war, and should not be treated in so scurvy a fashion in time of peace.
We all believe in disarmament, but it would be folly for Australia to disarm immediately and leave herself unprotected. Yet it is reported in the Argus of the 10th May last that the Carters and Drivers Union submitted for the consideration of the conference of the Australian Labour party that was held in Canberra this week, a motion affirming the principle that a voluntary military standing army is unnecessary and undemocratic, and urging its abolition. Another branch of the Labour party has suggested that no further expenditure be incurred on the naval, the military, or the air force. The Australian Railways Union, of which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) was secretary for many years, asked the conference to discuss the federal policy of military training, and expressed the opinion that all forms of naval and military training should be discontinued, all means of defence withdrawn, and the manufacture of all munitions discouraged.
I do not suggest that all honorable members who sit opposite are so radical in their views; but there is a very strong influence behind the Labour party which may actuate it into displaying hostility to a branch of the Service that ought receive preferential treatment. I urge the Minister to investigate this matter thoroughly, to compare the rates of pay in Australia with those that prevail in England, and to give naval officers, staff corps officers, and non-commissioned officers of the instructional staff, justice and a fair and equitable deal.
.- This afternoon the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) inferred that the bounty which is being paid to the dairying industry is a tax on the public of Australia ; and he went on to suggest that a full investigation should be made into the industry. He also expressed the opinion that nothing except absolute cooperation would save it from disaster. He was replied to very fully and ably by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I fear that he is not fully seised of all the facts. The bounty is not a direct tax on the people, but is paid by the dairymen themselves. I agree with him that it would be advantageous if the industry were worked wholly on the co-operative basis, but I point out that that system is adopted very largely in the majority of the States to-day. The honorable member also said that, as a result of the introduction of the Paterson stabilization scheme, the output of butter in South Australia had decreased materially. He knows very well that South Australia is not, never was, and never will be a butter-producing State. For years it has experienced dry seasons, and that is largely the reason why its output of butter has diminished so considerably. No body of men in this country works harder than do the dairymen. They work on every day of the year, and frequently are not able to complete their labours before nightfall. If they are deriving a slight benefit to-day, no one should begrudge it to them, particularly as it is largely the result of their own efforts. I knowthat prior to the introduction of the Paterson scheme the dairymen of Australia were among the most poorly paid men in this country. It is not right to suggest that, because they have improved their conditions somewhat, an investigation should be made to see if another scheme can be propounded.I represent an electorate which comprises largely dairying, farming and pastoral occupations. I am acquainted with the hardships that these men have endured for many years, the poverty they have suffered because of low prices, and their losses of stock by disease and from other causes. The Paterson scheme was evolved to protect their interests, and every credit is due to them for having joined in it. Only a few months ago I attended, at Coleraine, a meeting of agricultural and dairy experts at which it was suggested that this Government proposed to abolish the Paterson scheme. That statement was made by some interested gentleman who had no sympathy with either the dairymen or this Government, in an attempt to poison the minds of the dairymen. I then gave the statement an emphatic denial, and I repeat the denial to-night.
.- I agree with the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. The Paterson stabilization scheme has done a great deal for those who are engaged in the dairying industry; and the consumer, so far as I have been able to discover, has not suffered. The dairying industry is a very important one. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) may have been influenced in this matter in the same manner that honorable members opposite have been influenced in regard to the Wheat Marketing Bill. The dairying industry will be assisted if work is provided for the unemployed, whose purchasing power will thus be improved, and they will be able to buy the butter which otherwise they would have to do without. In this connexion, the recent decision of the New South Wales Government to build a railway from Bungendore to Captain’s Elat is encouraging. It is proposed to spend £200,000 on the work, and employment will thus bo given to a considerable number of men. The attitude taken up by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in this House seems very strange to me when I remember that he was elected on an adult franchise. He would have us buy our fertilizers from a Spanish company, rather than produce them from our own mines. Captain’s Elat can produce four times as much pyrites as we need, but rather than take Steps to encourage the local production of this commodity he would place special facilities at the disposal of foreign companies for marketing their goods in Australia. If a thriving industry is built up at Captain’s Elat, employment will be found for hundreds of men and their families. These people will purchase Australian butter and other foodstuffs; but the Spanish company, whose output the honorable member for Swan would have ‘ us accept, would not buy £1 worth of our butter or wheat. When the last Government was in office the honorable member for Swan was the tail that wagged the dog, and was largely responsible for a policy under which Australia bought £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth more of goods from America than that country bought from us. This was going on while the exchange positionwas so much against us that for every £100 we sent to America to buy motor cars we received only £S0 worth of value. I am glad that the present Government has adopted measures to check this extravagant overseas buying. At the present time, we have Mr. Forde on one side of the sea, and Mr. Fenton on the other, like two huge creeper cranes adding girder .o girder fashioning the two ends of a great arch of industry which will support Australia’s prosperity in the future. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) stressed the importance of the mining industry, and urged that a bounty be paid on the production of gold. Some form of government encouragement of mining is certainly necessary. At Yalwal, near Nowra, in my district mining is being carried on, and for an expenditure of approximately 7s. a ton, 16s. worth of mineral can be won. That industry could be greatly developed if it received proper assistance. We all realize the importance of gold. It is the basis of our papa currency. In the past, we were able to issue three or four £1 notes for every £1 worth of gold we held. Recent government policy, however, has been to keep more gold locked up than is necessary. Before the Government nationalized the note issue, £8,000,000 worth of notes was all that was required by the private banks as a medium of exchange for our commercial activities. Even with our present expansion of currency. I do not suppose that more than £20,000,000 worth of notes is needed, but much more than that has been issued. I do not know what our currency requirements are, but if a circulation of £40,000,000. worth of notes is sufficient, there is no need for a gold reserve of more than £10,000,000. The honorable member for Bendigo said that the gold-mining’ industry was entitled to receive from the Government a quid pro quo for the gold it produced. However, if gold is the basis of currency, and four pound notes are issued for every sovereign held in reserve, we have four “ quids “ for every £1 worth of gold. I should like to see the gold-mining industry receive some encouragement from the Government. The gold yield has been lower this year than at any other time during the past 80 years. Gold is a commodity which is always marketable. Its value has been recognized in all ages. In the past they set up . golden calves and worshipped them, and at the present time, even though we have evolved elaborate systems of credit, gold still remains the basis of our currency. I support the request of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) for some form of government assistance to the industry, although I am fully aware pf the difficulties confronting the Government. It seems strange that the Labour Government should have come into power just when conditions were at the worst in every direction. , The last Government had everything in its favour. Revenue from the Customs Department was pouring into .its lap, ‘ but instead of using the money wisely it squandered it.
I desire to call, the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) to the lack of postal facilities at a place near Berrima, known as Berrima Mines. This little town should be well-known to many prominent men in New South Wales, or it was, at any rate known well enough to some of their ancestors. It possesses one of the most noted gaols in the State. It is a coal-mining centre, but it possesses no postal facilities, and residents have to travel about ten miles to the nearest post office. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will be able to do something about the matter.
So far as the dairying industry is concerned I cannot agree with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) that any change should be made in the present system of marketing. Although the industry is worth only about ten or twelve million pounds a year to Australia, the money is well distributed among a very deserving section of the community, and no undue proportion of it finds its way into the hands of agents and middlemen.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to some instances of inefficiency in his department in the carriage of parcels, particularly in Queensland. Only yesterday I received a further complaint from Ipswich. A parcel despatched from that town” early in the afternoon should reach Bundaberg, on the north coast of Queensland, the next morning; but, at present, it takes four days to reach its destination. This has caused serious complaints from the senders, as well as the receivers of parcels, and is seriously affecting the business of Ipswich traders and is a cause of loss of revenue to the department. This is highly regrettable, for we look to this department to at least pay its way. Itwill not be able to do so if the present practices are continued for any length of time. The slogan of the department should be “ Quick despatch and efficient handling of parcels.” The railways can handle the parcels business; but not so efficiently as a properly-managed postal department. Seeing that we are spending millions of pounds a year in developing the Postmaster-General’s Department, we have a right to expect prompt and efficient service. I regret that the unsatisfactory handling of the parcels business is not confined to one area, but is reported to me to be becoming common throughout Queensland. I- have received complaints from many business firms in Ipswich of the tardy delivery of parcels. In these circumstances, I hope that the Minister will give close attention to these grievances and speedily remedy them. This section of the Post and Telegraph Department hitherto has always been most efficient.
Complaints are also coming to hand much too freely of the curtailment and cancellation, in many cases without any previous announcement, of mail services in the country districts of .Queensland. Only to-day I received the following telegram from Boonah: -
Public meeting business men held yesterday wired following resolution Deputy PostmasterGeneral : - That this public meeting protests strongly against the action of postal authorities in reducing some mail services and altering others and requests that the former facilities bc restored forthwith, particularly the making up of the mail on Sunday evenings; and that disapproval be expressed at the cavalier treatment accorded the public in not notifying them.
Hitherto the Postal Department has paid marked attention to the development of mail services in country centres, and has even provided some facilities in this direction which are not enjoyed in the cities. The country people have greatly appreciated this attention to their needs, and it would be deplorable if the present Government permitted any interference with the good work that has been going on. The curtailment of mail services in places which have only one, two or three deliveries a week means a serious dislocation of the business of the district, and tends to intensify the isolation of people who live in remote areas.
– Why did not the honorable member attack the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department when the Minister was in the chamber ?
– This is the first opportunity I have had to speak on the subject, and if I let it pass I should probably not get another for a month. It is not my fault that the Minister is not in his place. It is his duty to be here. I can only hope that the Treasurer, or one of the other Ministers who is present, will bring my grievances under the notice of the Postmaster-General. The curtailment of these mail services has inflicted a serious disability on the people of my constituency. I have no desire to introduce party spirit into this debate; but, if the honorable mem’bers make facetious interjections, they .cannot complain if I reply that the facilities which the Government is now taking away from the country people of Queensland were granted by the previous Government, which did more than any other administration to improve the postal, telegraphic and telephonic services in the country.
There is urgent necessity for the establishment of an automatic telephone service in Ipswich. Some few years ago, when complaints were made about the telephone service between Ipswich and Brisbane, thirteen new lines were installed to overcome the difficulty, the department considering this method at that time to ‘be more urgent than the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange. Business has expanded so much since then that even that additional equipment is proving inadequate to the needs of the situation, and I have received many complaints urging the need for a more up-to-date system. I hope that the Government will make provision on the Estimates for the coming year for the installation of an automatic telephone service in Ipswich.
I wish also to ask the PostmasterGeneral to give early attention also to the granting of some B class wireless licences in Queensland. A year or two ago a royal commission made a report to the Government on wireless generally in Australia, and recommended that certain alterations should be made in the conditions governing the granting of A class licences. Those recommendations have been carried into effect. But nothing much has been done to improve the position in respect to B class licences. Many months ago tenders were called for B class licences in Queensland. A number of applications were received, but no licences have yet been granted. If the tenders received were not satisfactory, fresh tenders should be invited. The granting of this licence is long overdue. It is not fair, however, that the licences should be offered for the short period of twelve months. It cannot he expected that people will go to the heavy expense necessary to establish a good B class station, and make the necessary arrangements for programmes and advertising, when they are only sure of their licence for twelve months.
– The programmes would chiefly consist of phonograph records, anyhow.
– Unfortunately, those who listen into A class stations in these days also hear far too many phonograph records. But B class stations in Queensland cannot be accused of broadcasting an undue number of phonograph records, for there are ‘no such stations there. I suggest that the B class licences should be for a three-year period at least. That would give the licensees a reasonable opportunity to make contracts for advertising to and set up the necessary organization for securing good programmes. I hope that the Government will give these matters early consideration and advise me of its decision.
.- It is sometimes said that honorable members on this side of the chamber see “red.” I do not mind being accused of seeing “ yellow “ because I support the request of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane’.) for a bounty on gold production. The discovery of gold in Australia, it has been said, precipitated Australia into nationhood. In the ten years in which gold-mining was most actively carried on in Australia the population increased by 740,000, or at the rate of 74,000 a year. During that time people flocked to this country from Great Britain, the United States of America, and Canada. There were 40,000 miners camped at Ballarat in the boom period, and thousands were also camped at Bendigo and Castlemaine. The honorable member for Bendigo directed attention this afternoon to the proceedings of an enthusiastic conference held in Bendigo last Monday to consider ways and means of reviving gold-mining. With the honorable member, I had the privilege of attending that historic gathering. The city of Bendigo has 10,000 or 12,000 fewer residents to-day than in the days when gold-mining was a flourishing industry there. Up to the end of 1927 Australia had produced gold to the value of £625,000,000, to which total Victoria had contributed more than £300,000,000. The honorable member for Bendigo said that the gold-mining industry had as good a claim to a bounty as many other primary industries which are being assisted in that way to-day. I go further and say that the gold-mining industry has a stronger claim. It has been shown conclusively that although Victoria has produced more than £300,000,000 worth of gold, the industry in that State has received net Government assistance to the extent of only about £300,000. Tn other words, for every £1 that has been spent to stimulate gold production £1,0.00 worth of gold has been obtained. The producers of gold cannot pass on any increase in the cost of production, and seeing that the cost of production has more than doubled since the beginning of the war,- it will be understood that the industry is to-day in a serious condition. It has been said that it would be economically unsound to provide a bounty for gold production. I freely admit that the principle underlying the payment of bounties is fundamentally wrong and economically unsound. At a large and representative conference held in Melbourne last year with the object of bringing about a revival of gold-mining. Professor Giblin, Professor of Economics at the Melbourne University, was asked by me whether he regarded a gold bounty as being any more unsound economically than the bounties paid to other primary industries. His answer was “No.” He said that all bounties were economically unsound, but that the gold-mining industry had a right equal to that of other industries to receive a bounty. He said, further, that a bounty was justified as a temporary expedient to tide this industry over a period of depression. Honorable members will admit that a professor of economics should know something of his subject. I was born in a mining atmosphere and have mining in my blood. I can picture towns in the mountains of Gippsland where at one time the gullies rang with the sound of the axe and the song of the happy miners and their families. Now in those valleys nature is fast reclaiming its own-. The town of Woods Point, which at one time had a population of some thousands, to-day has only a few score persons. At one time it could boast of seven solicitors, several banks, and a stock exchange. To-day the lyre birds are in the deserted gardens and the opossums are parading the streets at night. There are still a few miners in that town waiting, Micawber-like, for something to turn up.
– Miners’ phthisis may have had something to do with that.
– Prior - to 1866, the Morning Star mine in that district had paid over £120,000 in dividends. It was so rich that the battery had to be stopped every 24 hours to enable the amalgam to be taken out of the boxes because of the stamp heads clogging in it. About 1915, that mine was practically closed down. It subsequently received from the Victorian Mines Department several grants, amounting to £19,000 in all. As a result of these grants, and of reports from the geological survey staff of the Mines Department in Melbourne, a shaft was sunk, and payable ore was found. Since then 67,000 ounces of gold have been extracted from that mine, and £27,000 has been paid in dividends. The company borrowed £19,000 from the State Government and repaid £13,000. Yet the Bruce-Page Government made a grant of only £25,000 to assist the gold-mining industry throughout Australia. That offer was an insult to this great industry.
– And certain restrictions were placed upon that grant !
– Before any assistance could be obtained under that grant, certain questions had to be answered by the applicants. One question was the extent of the face of payable ore. Surely it should be common knowledge that a mine that has payable ore in sight does not need assistance. Still that question was asked. Probably much of this money remained unexpended because of the restrictions placed on the grant. It was the news of a sensational find of this precious metal in 1851 and the year following that brought about a constant stream of migrants to Australia. At the end of 1850, the population of Australia ‘was 405,000, and at the end of 1860, it had increased to 1,146,000. That increase was due solely to the production of gold. The Bruce-Page Government appointed an expensive body called the Development and Migration Commission. It has done nothing for the gold-mining industry, because, since its appointment, the production of gold has actually declined. In answer to a question which I asked last week as to the amount of money that has been spent during the last ten years in assisting migrants to come to Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) replied -
The amount spent by the Commonwealth from the inception of the joint Commonwealth andState migration scheme in 1921 to 31st December, 1929, in the form of free grants towards the cost of migrants’ passages to Australia, was £1,545,614.
Had half that sum been expended in assisting the gold-mining industry it would not be in the parlous condition that it is in to-day. I could take honorable members to the hills of Gippsland and show them shafts hundreds of feet deep, tunnels hundreds of feet into the hills and miles of water races round the steep sides of the hills which were all constructed by the early pioneers without any assistance at all from the Government. Had half of the amount expended on migrants’ passages been expended on this industry there would have been a revival of gold-mining, and probably a constant stream to Australia of migrants of a type similar to the sturdy pioneers who came out here in the early days. When one sees in the hills the monuments to their labour, one realizes that they must have had the hearts of lions. In those daysthere were no roads to the gold-mining camps. Gold is just as big a magnet to-day as it was in those days. In search of gold Australians went to Klondyke in Alaska. Recently Australians have gone to New Guinea and are getting gold there. Wherever gold is found there men will go, men who are prepared to work and to rough it. The honorable member for Herbert(Mr. Martens) mentioned, by interjection, that miner’s phthisis may have had something to do with the decline of the gold-mining industry. It is true that we have the legacy of that disease from the industry. The method of transport between the Old Country and Australia has changed considerably since the early days. Our pioneers came out in sailing ships. The sailing ships gave way to steamships, and now Miss Amy Johnson has flown from England to Australia by plane. Rapid strides have been made in transport, but the strides that have been made in the methods of mining have been, perhaps, just as rapid. Under the old methods of mining men contracted miners’ phthisis. To-day mining can be made practically as safe, from a health point of view, as an underground railway. It is claimed, by some persons, that gold is not real wealth, and that we can do without it. In reply let me say that we can well do with gold and plenty of it. The payment of a bounty would be no gamble, because the gold would have to be produced before the bounty would be paid. There is, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has said, a ready market for gold. There is no fear of over-production in gold-mining as there is in other primary industries. The Bruce-Page Government gave a bounty on wine, which stimulated the industry to such an extent that within a few years there was an enormous overproduction of wine and no market could be found for the surplus. There is no danger of over-production of gold. If we had a lump of gold of a certain dimension we could settle our debts abroad. In “Western Australia, as in other States, the auriferous areas, far from being exhausted, have as yet been only partly explored. We developed the Golden Mile in Western Australia. From that field gold to the value of £125,000,000 has been obtained. What honorable member would be so bold as to say that there is only one Golden Mile in Australia ? Probably there are many others, and with a little assistance they may be discovered. Goldmining is not dependent on the viscissitudes of climate, as are other industries. It does not suffer from drought or frosts.
– It suffers from lack of water.
– There was no water in Kalgoorlie, but a pipe line was laid from Perth to that town, a distance of 375 miles. Professor Giblin, to whom I have already referred, when speaking of a bounty on gold, said that every industry which is given a bounty, handicaps, to a certain extent, another industry which is not given a bounty. Goldmining is carrying the burden of the assistance given to other primary industries, because the bounties paid in respect of wine, dried fruits, cotton, and other primary industries have increased the cost . of gold production. As that increase cannot be passed on, the goldmining industry has a greater claim to a bounty than has many other primary industries.
– The best gold is found within 6 inches of the surface.
– Hundreds of miles of auriferous country have never been trodden by the foot of man, and geological experts have expressed the opinion that there is more gold in the ground than has yet been taken out. Australia owes so much to gold-mining that there is no justification for making that the Cinderella of our industries. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) pointed out how a mining revival would relieve unemployment. No other primary industry could do so much in that direction. A small mine in which I worked as a youth employed 400 men. How many hundred acres of wheat-field would have to be cultivated to give the same extent of employment ? When goldmining was booming the banks could not hold their clerks or the shops their assistants; all dropped their pens and measures and rushed to the new discoveries. As I have said, the township of Wood’s Point, in Victoria, at one time boasted of a population of thousands; but, when the mines declined, it was not able to turn to agricultural and pastoral pursuits, as other mining settlements have been able to do. Thirty-seven miles distant was the farming town of Jamieson, for which the prosperous mining centre of Wood’s Point provided a profitable market. When the miners drifted away the farmers,’ being too distant from the railway to have access to the metropolitan markets, were without an outlet for their produce. The result was that the workers of both townships had to drift to the cities, and joint the ranks of the unemployed. A revival of gold-mining would mean an influx of capital from abroad.. The present difficulty of raising loans overseas would disappear, and millions of pounds would be sent to Australia for investment. In my electorate are scores of mines which closed down because they could not be profitably worked. But if a bounty of £1 per oz. were offered they would re-open within a month, and employ hundreds, and probably thousands, of men. An increased production of gold would help the Treasurer to adjust the trade balance. During the last seven months £18,000,000 worth of gold has been shipped abroad. If Australia could quickly produce another £20,000,000 worth of gold the national credit would be helped to a great extent. The resuscitation of mining, by absorbing the unemployed in a rural occupation, would assist to maintain decentralization. Other industries also would be beneficially affected. Engineering firms, implement makers and manufacturers of explosives would find an enlarged market for their products. Australia is in debt to the gold-mining industry, and I know of no better means by which the country could discharge its debt than by offering a bonus on gold production. I suggest that the scheme be given a trial for, say, five years ; if in that time it does not justify itself it can be discontinued. I repeat that gold-mining ha3 done more for Australia than many industries that are to-day obtaining bounties, and, therefore, is more entitled than they are to generous assistance by the Government.
. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has drawn a pitiful picture of the hardships suffered by the struggling housewife through her inability to buy a washing machine at a reasonable price, because, he alleged, the present Government had increased the duty on fractional horse-power motors. He suggested that all housewives should have washing machines, but the fact is that not one in a thousand is the fortunate possessor of one.
– They are too dear.
– Why ? Perhaps the honorable member also thinks that the high cost of washing machines is due to the increase of the duty on fractional horse-power motors. Washing machines do not concern the great masses of the people.
-*- Make the machines cheap enough, and the housewives will get them.
– The present Government is not to blame for the high cost of washing machines, because it was the Bruce-Page Government, of which the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer, that increased the British preferential tariff on fractional horsepower motors from 27-J per cent, to 45 per cent., and the general tariff from 45 per cent, to 60 per cent. No increase has been imposed by the present Government.
– I said that if the duty were taken off fractional horse-power motors, washing machines could be sold for £25. I blamed the Government for the duty imposed on the frigidaire.
– The right honorable member asked why the duty on fractional horse-power motors was not reduced, although he must have known that the duty was imposed by the Government of which he was a member. That is typical of the misrepresentation we are accustomed to hear from him. He spoke of the increase in the price of refrigerators because of the duty imposed by this Government. The reply to that charge is that the Australian refrigerator is sold for approximately £65 as against the £89 charged for the American article. Hearing the right honorable gentleman speak one would think that the cost of refrigerators was an acute problem affecting the domestic life of the masses, whereas fully half the people of Australia cannot afford even an ice chest, let alone a frigidaire. Thanks, however, to the activities of the Australian manufacturers, a refrigerator can be obtained for £65 as against the £S9 demanded for the American machine. The protection of the Australian industry has not imposed any hardship on the people. The right honorable member for Cowper is evidently putting up a fight for the American manufacturer against the Australian. If people want refrigerators - and they are a great convenience, although to the majority of people they are an inaccessible luxury - they can get the Australian product for £65, and, by buying locally, will give employment to their own people. Recently, I visited the works of the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, Sydney. When this firm started to manufacture, the price of meters was 36s., but as a result of local production, the price has dropped to 18s. These meters are now being produced in Australia in hundreds of thousands, and the industry is giving employment to our own citizens. While the right honorable member for Cowper was speaking, I interjected that the prices of vacuum cleaners were not reduced when the last Government removed the duty on them. The honorable member replied that the reduction in price took place twelve months later, and he attributed that to the removal of the duty. Investigation proves, however, that the price was reduced a3 a result of the competition of other vacuum cleaners which were put on the market. Do honorable members think that without pressure of that kind the price would have been reduced for the benefit of the Australian public? The right honorable gentleman also contrived to misrepresent the position in regard to the exemptions granted under the prohibition proclamation. He has criticised the remedies adopted by the present Government for the financial ills that were bequeathed to it by the last administration, and its measures for the rectification of the disgraceful drift that had been allowed to go on for years.
– Nonsense !
– The right honorable gentleman says “Nonsense”. I shall read to honorable members the opinion regarding his administration published by the Melbourne Age, which is not a Labour newspaper. It is one of the foremost journals of this country. Yesterday it published the following leading article : -
Few people are better qualified to speak of the nation’s financial troubles, for none will deny Mr. Page the distinction of having made a notable contribution to their creation. But, to the surprise of the community, the erstwhile Treasurer does not apologize for the appalling muddle he left to his successor; he does not lament his countless neglected opportunities of avoiding some of the stressful difficulties with which others must grapple. At his inglorious going Mr. Page left the national finances in a condition so chaotic that the incoming Government was obliged to take unprecedented action in a desperate attempt to avert disaster. The limit of extravagance and ineptitude had been reached. The distinct impression in the public mind is that the removal of Mr. Page from the Treasury was one of Australia’s few strokes of good fortune in a generally luckless year.
If that opinion were expressed by an honorable member who sits on this side, the right honorable gentleman would say that it was dictated by party bias. The Melbourne Age is not the mouth-piece of the Country party, the Nationalist party, the Australian party, or the Labour party. It publishes the considered opinions of the highly trained and intellectual staff that it employs. The right honorable gentleman took exception to the prohibition proclamation, and to the exemptions that have been granted under it. On the 14th May last, only two weeks ago, he asked me a question upon this matter; and I replied to him by giving a com plete list of the exemptions that had been granted under the prohibition proclamation. I then stated that I had no objection to bringing before the House at a later date a supplementary statement of any further exemptions that might be found to be necessary. Although the complete list which I tabled was published, not only in Hansard, but also in the principal newspapers of Australia, the right honorable gentleman, in the course of a speech which he delivered in the favorable atmosphere of a Country part conference in Sydney, said that, inside a month, 40 out of th* 57 items on which the Government had placed the import embargo, had been removed from the prohibited list; and he added that this was “ just another instance of the Government leaping before it looks.” It is well known that thai is a gross exaggeration of the facts. It is incredible that such a statement should be made by a gentleman who was a member of a Commonwealth Ministry for many years. As a matter of fact, the embargoes have not been lifted; they still apply to an overwhelming proportion of the goods that have been enumerated in the different classifications. Minor exceptions have been made, and rightly so. to meet the necessities of different cases “When the prohibition proclamation was brought down, the right honorable member for Cowper, and other honorable members who sit opposite, expressed the hope that the whole matter would be dealt with sympathetically, and that no cases of hardship would be allowed to continue. Yet, because it can be proved that one out of 30 or 40 articles is not made in Australia nor obtainable in Australia., and that an exemption has been granted, the right honorable gentleman raises an objection. It is a petty attitude for one to adopt, who should be anxious to assist the Government in its attempt to rectify the adverse trade balance, and to arrest the deplorable drift that for so long was allowed to continue.
A great deal has been heard regarding what is occurring as a result of the tariff schedules of the Government. I shall, therefore, enumerate some of the new industries that are being established in Australia, because of the generous measure of protection that has been given to a number of Australian industries. Julius Kayser & Company, of New York, and the Holeproof Hosiery Company, of Milwaukee, both well-known hosiery manufacturers, have completed arrangements for the manufacture in Australia of the full range of their products. This will give employment to a considerable number of Australian men and women. Godfrey Phillips Limited, one- of the largest tobacco and cigarette manufacturers in the United Kingdom, has signified its intention to establish a branch factory in Australia. W. A. Gilbey Limited, of the United Kingdom, has decided to turn its gin-bottling works at West Melbourne, Victoria, into a distillery. It intends to spend approximately £20,000 on an extension of the existing factory. H. A. Heinz, of Pittsburgh, in the United States of America, is establishing a large factory in Australia at a cost of £150,000, and estimates that it will give employment to 350 workers in the production of such goods as those with which the company formerly supplied the Australian market, principally from America and partially from England. The Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, which previously supplied the Australian market with rubber garden hose that was manufactured by the parent company in the United States of America, has installed at its Australian branch since the imposition of the increased duties, plant for the manufacture of that hose. Arrangements are now in hand by which the Swedish Match Company will establish one factory in Western Australia, and another in either New South Wales or Victoria. As a result of its operations, in conjunction with those of -Bryant and May and. other match factories that already are operating in Australia, local requirements will be supplied without importation.
– Will the price of matches be reduced?
– I have no doubt that, because of the lower overhead costs and increased production, the price will be reduced when the whole of the Australian market has been captured by the companies that are operating in this country. Phillips Lamps Limited, of Eindhoven, Holland, intends to establish in Aus tralia a factory for the manufacture of radio receivers and parts, giving employment eventually to 200 hands. The name of this company is famous throughout the world. Another company which, in the industrial world, has a name to con jure with, is the Australian General Electric Company. It has arrangements well in hand for the manufacture in Australia of filament lamps for lighting and heating purposes. Formerly these had to be imported from other countries, but in the near future they will be made in Newcastle. Robert Bosch and Company, of Germany, will shortly manufacture, in Australia, its well known spark plugs, for which there will be a ready sale, because they are world-famous. Mr. J. Joris, a Belgian diamond expert, has decided to operate locally a plant for the cutting and polishing of diamonds. Qualcast and Company, of Derby, in the United Kingdom, are establishing at Footscray, in Victoria, a branch for the manufacture of lawnmowers. J. Stone and Company, of London, who have world-wide contracts for the supply of lighting systems to different railway companies, now find that, because of the duty imposed by the present Government, it is necessary to establish a branch in Australia for the manufacture of lighting systems for ships and railways, as well as batteries, accumulators and other equipment.
When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) was in London, he was interviewed by quite a number of firms that were impressed by the advisability of coming within Australia’s tariff wall. Nearly every day representatives, of English companies interview me, as the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, in regard to the advantages that are to be gained by establishing branches in Australia. If members of the gloomy club who sit opposite were not actuated by party political considerations, I believe that, instead of indulging in gloomy predictions, they would applaud the Government for its policy, the object of which is the establishment of a greater number of factories in Australia and the provision of more employment for our people.
– I cannot recollect whether I have previously spoken upon the proposal to pay a bonus on gold production. If
I have done so, I must have expressed the view that, as in the case of other industries, its artificial bolstering up by means of a bonus is economically unsound. But if any industry is more entitled than another to this form of assistance, it is the gold-mining industry. The Commonwealth has given bounties to industries that are a handicap to the community, and that are never likely to help to discharge the national debt. A greater production of gold, however, would certainly increase the financial credit of the country. Every ounce of gold that is raised establishes credit to the extent of nearly three times its intrinsic value. The other evening I said that it should not be necessary to guarantee a price for wheat grown in Australia. I now say that it ought not to be necessary to clamour for a bonus on the gold that is raised; and it would not be but for the undue bolstering up of other industries. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has stressed the importance of secondary industries. Had it not been for the ardour that has been displayed by this House in developing those industries, which increase the cost of production and the cost of living in this country, no bounty or guarantee would be necessary for our primary industries. But as the protection of all other industries, either by way of a bounty or a protective tariff, has laid heavy burdens upon the gold-mining industry, surely that industry is justified in asking this House for a bonus on gold that is actually raised. It would be better, however, that Parliament should adopt the alternative course, and remove the burdens which are weighing down the mining industry. I compliment the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) on the speech he made on this subject; but he is somewhat inconsistent in that he sits on the Government side of the House, instead of on this side. He recognizes that an unduly heavy load has been placed on the mining industry, and he made a strong appeal for assistance. He recognizes, as I do, that many lowgrade shows in Australia were being worked until costs of wages, machinery, &c., mounted to a point at which it was no longer possible to carry on. A bounty will be only a palliative, but it would be justified under the policy of the present Government. I hope, however, that Australia will eventually adopt the better course, and remove the burden not only from this industry, but from all other worthy industries as well. The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to-night defended the policy which has already created so much unemployment in Australia, and is rapidly placing the country in an untenable position, despite its wonderful natural resources. He spoke of bringing manufacturers here to make goods in Australia under the protection of a high tariff wall. He thinks it would be a great thing to have them manufacturing in Australia, but what about the unfortunate persons who have to buy goods? Will those factories pay anything off our national debt? They never will. When are we going to adopt a sound national policy of development, and cease attempting the impossible? In this connexion, I should like to place on record the considered opinion of an investigator, Mr. Henry Butsworth, manufacturers’ representative from London. He was sent by the manufacturers to investigate conditions in Australia, and before leaving Fremantle he wrote this letter to the West Australian newspaper -
Sir, - As one who has been sent out to Australia specially to make full and careful investigations as to the possibility of establishing the manufacture of certain goods now manufactured in England and America and shipped to Australia, and with instructions to report fully on the matter to the manufacturers, I am taking the liberty of writing you a few hasty lines on the day of my departure, to let you know the result of my inquiries and the nature of my report. Briefly, they are as follows: -
I find that under your present arbitration laws and the labour unionism terrorism, backed by the Labour Governments, who legislate only for this one class of people, it is absolutely impossible for any person or firm to establish or carry on any manufacturing business successfully in any part of Australia. Further, the Labour Government’s now tariff will greatly increase the cost of living to all here without any benefit whatever to any one. Under these conditions, unemployment must increase until conditions will become desperate. Then the working classes will wake up to the fact that the Labour Government’s policy is short-sighted and unworkable. After seeing the conditions of manufacturing in other countries, I can say that the way things are conducted here is ridiculous. Take the Tailways. Just fancy the 44-hour week in times, like these! Just think of the plant at, say.
Midland Junction, which cost over a million of money, only working one-third or less of its time, and that on lines demanded by the unions! The people are paying on an average, two-thirds of the interest bill for nothing on your railway and other Government plants. In other countries one-third of these plants, costing one-third of the money, are working three shifts, giving three times the employment and only paying one-third of the interest and giving better returns.
I note that some of your politicians are requesting the farmers to produce more wheat. Now, how is this possible when they, the politicians, are doing everything possible to raise the cost of production by the tariff, and taxing every thing and every one and backing the unions to make the employment of the workers impossible? Surely they must know that wheat and wool can be produced in Canada and Africa and delivered in the markets of the world much cheaper than you can here now, and while your costs of production are going up their’s are coming down. Your people, particularly the workers, are in for a very bad time unless they get into power promptly a good progressive Government which is going to work for the country, and not for any narrow-minded party or section of your people as now. - Yours, &c, henry butsworth,
Manufacturers’ Representative, London.
Perth, 10th February.
– How long was Mr. Butsworth in Australia?
– Evidently the honorable member is satisfied with the existing industrial conditions in Australia.
– I am satisfied that the ratio of unemployment to employment here is less than in the country from which Mr. Butsworth came.
– Then the honorable member has nothing to complain of. He still thinks that high tariffs will create more employment. He follows a leader, however, who has admitted that he is convinced, as the result of his own observations, that every increase in the tariff results in an increase in unemployment. That is inevitable; it is an economic law. It would be all right for us to set up a high standard for ourselves if we could pay for it. It is all very well to pay bounties on this and bounties on that, but where is the Father Christmas who is going to provide all these bountiful things? Even Labour members, when they get into office, will have to face requests from different sections for benefits of all kinds, realize thai they have no inexhaustible well filled with gold on which to draw. There is no cornucopia into which they can dip for money. The sooner we examine the position, and adopt a policy of encouraging those primary and secondary industries which are natural to the country, the sooner shall we become prosperous again. In this way the community will be self-reliant, and people will really be earning their own living. Even Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria, is beginning to realize these facts. He has appealed for greater production, not only from the wheat-growers, but also from the manufacturers and workers. He recognizes that the position of Australia to-day is such that every one must play his part. This artificial doping of industry, mostly for political purposes, should be discontinued. The honorable member for Bendigo inveighed against centralization, but he supports a government whose policy inevitably encourages centralization. There is an old story to the effect that when it is time for the eaglets to learn to fly their mother stirs up the nest and makes it so uncomfortable for them that they are forced to take to the air, and thus become self-reliant. The honorable member for Bendigo would do well to stir up the nests in Melbourne and in Sydney, so that some of those industrial fledglings now being fed by bounties and tariffs, ranging from 45 per cent. to 100 per cent., may be compelled to fend for themselves. The present system of high tariffs, short hours and reckless expenditure can continue only so long as the gold-producers, wheatgrowers and wool-raisers are able to pay for it. The eagle’s nest is even now being stirred up by the functioning of immutable economic laws. Wheat and wool prices have fallen to the level of, or even below, the cost of production, and there is no surplus to pay for further extravagances. It is not enough for the honorable member for Bendigo to complain in this House of the undue burdens borne by the gold-mining industry, If there is any consistency in the honorable member he will support those who are doing their utmost to get the city people, who are, in a sense, a parasitical growth upon the agriculturist, to go out into the country and produce. The honorable member preached a very healthy doctrine this afternoon. The mineworkers and mine-owners are asking for a bounty on gold production because their industry has been killed through the bolstering up of other industries. The explosives, candles, tools and machinery required for gold-mining have increased in cost to such an extent that it has become impossible, except in isolated places, to produce gold at a profit. It would be wise for the Government to allow machinery to come in duty free. If it adopted that policy, some manufacturing industries could be established here on a basis which would enable them to compete in the markets of the world. But our extremely high duties have resulted in the serious over-capitalization of industry, and this burden will have to be carried for all time. We are carrying far too many loads. We have unnatural primary, as well as unnatural secondary industries in Australia. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs is almost as proud as a cut-tailed pup because he has been able to pilot through this House the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill; but that measure will merely keep alive for a time another unnatural primary industry. There may be a few of these industries which it would be wise for us to develop for certain reasons, but we are in a serious plight when we have not a single secondary industry which is standing upon its own feet. The proposal to guarantee 4s. a bushel for wheat would be all right if we had some wealthy concern behind us to provide the money; but that is not the case. We are simply taking a pound out of one pocket and putting it into another pocket. No one knows better than the Treasurer that our annual recurring commitments of about £70,000,000 cannot be met by taking in each other’s washing or cutting each other’s hair. It is time we got down to some practical economic basis. Before this country can make any real progress it must produce to sell, not only on the home market, but on the markets of the world. It is of little use for us to build a wall round Australia and tempt people to shelter behind it, for that policy will never create a substantially prosperous nation. What we need is a recalculation of our resources and a rehabilitation of our industries on an economic basis.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) discussed a subject of the greatest possible importance to Australia this afternoon. He pleaded with the Government to allow fertilizers, and the ingredients of fertilizers, to be brought into Australia dutyfree. An adequate supply of cheap fertilizers is the foundation of success for a primary producing country like Australia. The use of suitable fertilizers would practically double the carrying capacity of the land. It would not only increase the quantity of fodder grows, but also the fattening qualities of it.If we had an adequate supply of suitable fertilizers there would not be so much land hunger in Australia, for we should be able to produce double from the land already in occupation. Any government which has the courage to adopt the policy advocated by the honorable member for Swan in regard to fertilizers would merit the greatest possible support. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) considers that he is doing a great thing for the wheat-growers by offering a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat, though he is willing to involve the Government in only half of any loss that might be incurred through the guarantee; but when he was on this side of the chamber he spoke airily about the possibilities of a guarantee of 5s. a bushel. If the honorable gentleman wants to assist wheat-growing he will investigate the statement of’ the honorable member for Swan that the Rio TintoCompany is willing to introduce its fertilizers into Australia, or at least into Western Australia at concession rates whichwould greatly assist the producers. Every country in the world has its scientists at work to discover methods of securing an abundant and cheap supply of artificial manures, and it should be the first duty of this Government to take similar steps. If it can achieve that end it will do a great deal to promote the peace, happiness and prosperity of the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Theodore) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300529_reps_12_124/>.